Return to Fiji

We are wrapping up a three day crossing from Minerva to Fiji. The wind has been generous. The sea state was building across the days but that is what happens when the wind blows! Closing in on Midnight as we work our way through some of the many Fijian islands on our way to Vuda Point marina. We should arrive tomorrow morning, Thursday the 10th.

We pull up to Vuda Point at the appointed hour. We tie up to a mooring and radio in.

Biological Security comes on board first. They primarily are concerned about whether we are healthy enough to be allowed to enter Fiji. We Pass.

I recognized one of the women from last year when she confiscated our contraband bananas! She remembered me and seemed to be in a better humor than last year. I assured her that I had no bananas this year and she was amused.

Next was customs and the details of officially “debarking” Brad, Grant, and Roddy so they can fly out.

I had an interesting conversation with the woman working me through the customs process. She told me that she was trying to get a visa to visit the US for a family wedding. And that the fee for a visa application was $600 US. That is a lot of money for a Fijian. And is you are not approved it is not refundable. Keep that in mind next time you get hassled by a customs official in your travels. The US customs process does not treat people so well that wish to visit. Especially if they are from a non-white country. She was being so kind to us and I was ashamed that my country was not showing her the same respect.

Last step in our process was applying for a “cruising permit” so that we can sail about in Fiji waters. It’s Thursday. We are told we might get that permit Friday. This matters as we want to visit a few islands before B, G, and R fly out on Tuesday. Well we did not get a permit. And now won’t until Monday at the earliest.

Permit? We don’t need no stinking permit! We go anyway. Risk is life.

We round up some last supplies. Saturday we depart. Mana island is our first stop. It has a good reef and a well protected lagoon. The pass into the lagoon is a little twisty but not bad.

The island is kinda closed. This is one of the primary places where Survivor is being filmed. So the resorts and restaurants have all been shut. No guests. Makes for a peaceful lagoon. Which now contains yet another pair of my sunglasses. Another sacrifice to Neptune.

We next head for Musket Cove on Round island. No “Survivor” nonsense here. Restaurant and grocery open.

We’d been here last year for an event. Lots of people! This year very different. More staff than guests. But it is early in the season. Grant takes us out to dinner as B,G and R leave tomorrow. Ferry to mainland then shuttle to airport. After they depart Nancy Kat and I just chill at anchor for the day on Monday. Nice to have more space on the boat. But that lot gets invited back. Great crew.

The next day (Tuesday) we head back to the mainland to pick up our cruising permit. It just came in, thank you! And we are off to Port Denarau, a nearby marina that has more vendors. I need something welded and we can get more supplies and fuel.

We need some Kava. This is a root used ceremonially in the peripheral islands. We met a woman named Katherine in a Fijian restaurant who tells us her dad sells kava. And he is from one of the little islands we will be visiting. She fixes us up. We need to keep in touch with this one, she might make good crew..

Welding gets done, dive gear gets sorted out, other supplies acquired. Successful mission!  Lets stop for a pizza.img_20180516_191150296

Mama’s Pizza in Denarau had fantastic pie.  And we met this nice gentleman here.  His wife was the pizza chef.  And he works for the Hilton Hotel.  In Auckland New Zealand.  How does that work?  He works there and commutes weekly to Fiji?  Difficult to understand how that can work financially.  But apparently it does.  Nice visit.

We want to go to the Lao islands in eastern Fiji. A few folks have told us the way to take best advantage of the wind is to go clockwise through the Fiji isands ending up in the Lao.

So off we go winding our way North for Sawani bay where we will stop for the night. Just before sunset as we get ready to turn into the bay… Bonk! Another one of those friendly reefs reaches out and spanks my newly painted keel. As the kiwis would say, Bugger! We reviewed our myriad navigational aides and none of them really shows the rocks we met in such a way as to call them a hazard. Bugger again! I just need to be more paranoid.

But we move on and get anchored. We are meeting folks for dinner.  Shanise and Stuart. We dinghy to shore (not hitting anything else on the way) and they carry us off to a restaurant in their truck. Shanise might join Spill the Wine for a bit. We’ll see about schedules.

This morning (Saturday the 19th) I went under the boat to see if there was any real damage from that rock. Bottom paint on the keel took a whack but otherwise is all looks ok. Inside shows a tiny crack in a frame. So nothing needs doing immediately. The frame will be an easy repair. Even for me. The paint whack will have to wait until the next haul out. At least a year. Time for breakfast.

And we continue to wind our way up the coast dodging numerous huge reefs successfully. Kat sends the day sorting out a navigation program called Open CPN. And she makes way more progress than I ever did.  Darn Youths! We anchored about 4pm on Saturday by Volivoli point. Time to roast a chicken. Tomorrow we exit the reef through Nananu pass and cross to Vanua Levu island. It’s about 35 miles. We should get there before dark.

Unless we decide to stay put for a couple more days. It’s a beautiful bay!20180518_163441

You can see a little red X on the chart.  That is where we anchored.  The brown chart elements are land.  The green elements are reef.  There are plenty of reefs as you can see.   But if you are out sailing through the channels the reefs are underwater and usually nearly invisible.

Nancy and I go ashore to see about some supplies. Mangroves on the shore. So where to access shore is not obvious. We pick a spot. It was pretty shallow for the last 100 yards. That should have gotten my attention. More on that later.

We wandered up the hill through some sugar cane fields, dodging the odd cow grazing along, a couple goats. We met the woman in charge of the land and she very graciously directed us to the path that led to the road.

We followed The Google’s directions to the grocery. It was described as opening at 8am. Well I’m thinking it has not opened at 8 in quite some time.

We look up the road and spy a little vendor. And smells like smoke. Best go look.

They have lamb BBQ with cucumber, kasava, rice, and a hot dog. I’m in. The proprietor gets my a glass of water and a chair in the shade. I’m really in Fiji now. Super nice people. First there was the woman running the stand. Then her man came along. Then a small girl and a grandmother gravitated over from the house. This was a happening. Two people from the US just wandered into our BBQ stand! Inconceivable! Fun.

They tell us there is a bit of a store just down the road. Just keep walking. Nancy did. I sat down to enjoy the BBQ. But I did catch up to her as she bought some eggs and a liter of milk from the little store.

The owner invited us to relax for a few. A small girl with a beautiful smile (that she won’t share with a camera) comes along.

Then the proprietor wants in. Why not?

Then a little boy jumps in and you can see a local fisherman behind us. He tells me he is heading to Alaska to do some cold water fishing. Get ready for cold my young friend!

We walk back towards the bay. Get some more BBQ to take to STW for Kat who continues to work on the Open CPN project. Then there was a horse… Of course.

“What do you mean you mean you went to the store and didn’t bring me a carrot???”. Honest dude! They did not have any veggies. Cans only! Horse unimpressed.

We find our way to the same path through the canefields as before. The woman who guided us previously is not about but we left her a couple of eggs for her kindness. Navigate the goats, the cows, the bushes, and there is the dinghy.

And the tide is out. And we are 100 yards from the water line. And the dinghy + motor + fuel is a bit too heavy to drag 100 yards. Learning. Beachest thou not thy dinghy after crossing 100 yards of shallow water on a falling tide. So we strip the dinghy.

Stack the bits on a rock at the water line. And carry the empty dinghy to the water.

C’mon Nancy! Try to get more excited about portaging the dinghy! Actually Nancy was a great sport throughout. And hoist the dinghy we did. Remounted the motor and returned to STW.

That was a lot of work. Time for a nap. I love not having a tight schedule. My blood pressure just went down.

Nancy suggests we visit Volivoli Beach Resort for dinner. Why not? It’s Sunday. Everything else is closed.

Great idea. Super sunset on their beach. We had smoked pork, spring rolls, and sushi. All awesome. Staff was awesome. They were Fijian after all!

Monday comes and we dinghy ashore to a different part of the bay. The Fijians on shore are happy to help us land. We explain that we have come for groceries. Hmmm… Groceries. Several miles to to go to Rakiraki town. One of the guys asks if we want him to call us a cab. Before that happens a guy pipes up and says our cab is here, and he is it.

So we walk to Lau’s car at the foot of the jetty. He unlocks it and pulls some wires out from under the dash which he twists into the doors to roll down the windows. On the road to Rakiraki town!

Where there are several grocery stores. We round up some supplies in one store. Then our crew went in several directions. And I did not know where my crew was. Neither did Lau. How hard can it be to find the only two Caucasian women in Rakiraki town? Finally did of course. Then it was time to go… Or was it? Lau wants to make one more pass through the market. Not sure why, but he’s driving.

They have everything green here. Grocery stores not so much it turns out. He introduced me to some Fijians he knows here. They ask me if I want to drink some Kava. How to respond? Are they being polite? Is it impolite to decline? It’s not like I have to drive… Sure. Next thing you know my tongue is numb. It’s what Kava does. But I’m honored they wanted to share numb tongues with me.

We round up lunch to go and head back to the wharf. The locals help us launch the dinghy and we head back to STW. Stow the groceries and trot out lunch. Tomorrow we depart for Vanua Levi, Fiji’s other major island. But first we must pass through the many reefs…

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Once I was an Island

What is an atoll and how is it formed? Every time I try to explain this I confuse others and myself. So I tried a different approach after our visit to Minerva Reef, which is an atoll.

Once I was an island. And I did things that Islands do. I relaxed in the Sun in the middle of the sea.

Sometimes there were strong winds. And shortly after I came into my volcanic existence the winds brought me birds. And the birds and sea currents brought me vegetation.

After a time I grew weary of the sea errodng my beaches and I decided to grow a reef of coral. It never dawned on me what would happen if I had a reef of coral. Coral is a living thing you see. And it will grow. And erosion will not stop it. I did not have this power.

Many thousands of years passed and erosion from the wind and rain slowly took its toll and I melted into the sea. Do not be sad. I was very old.

My reef that I loved so dearly carried on, as it should. I’m sure it thinks fondly of me sometimes. And now it has a new friend, The lagoon that has come to be in the space I once called my own. I hope they love each other and the sea for a very long time.

Atolls are magical places. Their story deserves telling in prose that is not clinical or scientific. I had a go.

Minerva is a republic. Human population is zero. The land mass above the sea is nothing more than a few rocks.

We passed by Minerva south in the dark of late morning and arrived at Minerva reef North about 9am. The reef was once a complete circle. But now in the NW margin there is a break in the reef. This is called a pass. It is 85 feet deep. This sort of depth is unusual for a pass. But WWII was an unusual time. At that time Minerva was made over into a harbor for ships of war. Which need a deep pass to accommodate their draft. Let’s just say dynamite was involved. In time the ships were taken away. And Minerva was once again a lovely atoll 300 miles south of Fiji. Now with a pass.

Pass matters. Now boats like ours can get into the lagoon. This affords us a tremendous amount of protection from the swells and waves of the southern ocean. It’s like a calm lake in the middle of an active sea. The lagoon is 3 miles across and we are alone here. Surrounded on all sides by waves breaking on the reef that cannot disturb the rest of Spill The Wine and her sleepy crew.

We went snorkeling on a shipwreck. Probably a WWII remnant. Whose demise has created a place for sealife to thrive. Shipwrecks in tropical waters are invariably bejeweled with a dizzying array of fish and chorals of many colors. The ships death creates a lively, cheerful, and beautiful seascape.

When the Tide is low one can walk on the reef. And we did. Kat and Roddy found 3 fat spiney lobsters. Who soon joined the crew of Spill The Wine on the Big Green Egg. Accompanied by a lamb foreleg.

In the morning we moved our boat to the reef pass. Snorkeling in a pass is usually great and we are not disappointed. Grant does a scuba dive.

While we were out the last lobsters pooped in the refrigerator. Bummer. Minor time out to do some clean up.

Finally depart at 2pm. 300 miles to Fiji. It’s getting warmer. The sea is now 75 degrees. The wind is weak. But we need to charge batteries and make water. Perfect timing. Motoring towards Fiji at 330 degrees. Kat makes cucumber salad and we dine on the last 2 lobsters.

Weather predictions are for wind behind us all the way to Fiji. So after dinner we rig the boat for downwind sailing. Pole the jib out to windward. And secure the main out to leeward.

No sooner do we have the sails arranged when we have a fish. A yellowfin tuna joins the crew of Spill The Wine. Let there be sushi! Roddy and Kat fillet the new crew member. I should tell you that this is not how we treat all new crew. Just the ones that are lobsters and fish.

Sails set, dinner over, and for dessert we have the Milky Way. Best star night yet. Late moon rising, and clear. It’s been a fantastic passage. Too soon it will end.

Last Details before Departing NZ

I’m alone on the boat just now. Which makes it easy to get things done.

The dingy has served some rough miles. This is the bow. It appears to have met too many rocks on beach landings. Poor dingy. I’ve some old epoxy resin. Let’s hope it still works.

First I need a “sterile field”. I hope this old pizza box is sterile. Just so I don’t dribble resin everywhere.

You are looking at three layers of fiberglass cloth saturated with epoxy resin. Which is a funny color. Rust? It was in a steel can that looked rusty… Who cares, it set.

I used a funny cloth that you lay on the surface of your resin before it hardens. You smooth it out by hand. After the resin sets up you peel off the fabric and you are left with a pretty smooth surface. One of the guys in the boatyard told me about this fabric. I was impressed. Made sanding short work. Then paint.

Shadow man says…”Like it never happened!” Next I patched a few leakys on the dinghy tubes. They were not bad but it is annoying to have to reinflate the dingy too often.

The transom has brutal rust stains. Maybe from marginally stainless bolts. So I get new bolts. But the rust… I just painted the bow repair, Paint the transom! Worked great.

The dinghy has stern wheels to facilitate beach landings. They have parts that don’t float. Personal experience. 😁. So I visit the machinist that did some work on the cutless bearing. He made the missing part presto.

And the dinghy goes back in it’s bag for travel.

One of the hatches has a broken handle. I fix that up with a new teak handle I made from a scrap I had on board.

The teak trim on the companionway needs refinished. Got that. The battery on the autopilot remote control expired. Nancy brought a new one of those too. I’ve an eye on the front of the mast. Said eye is undersized for my spinnaker pole. So I ordered a new eye to be welded on.

Here we are looking at the old ring and the new above. The old ring will be removed from the plate and replaced with the new.

Parts ready for welding here. Sunglasses in the frame for scale. Kiss them goodbye. They have joined the legion of boat bits that did not float. Begs the question… How many pairs of sunglasses does it take to tour the South Pacific? Four and counting…

And the finished product courtesy of Chris the welding guru. Back on the mast before I lose the parts!

A friend scavenges an old sail from a dumpster for me. I set about sewing it into a bag for my bicycle. I sailed down here from Seattle with bike hung from the stern arch. Very exposed. Hopefully the bag will protect it from the elements enough to slow down Death by Rust! I think it’s going to work.

Steering wheels run on greased ball bearings. There is a grease seal on each wheel. These seals have failed. And rust begins. And rust bleeds down the steering posts.

That will never do. New seals ordered and in hand. And I dismantle the steering assembly. Remove rust stains. Install new seals, and ready to go.

Other chores. Diesel cabin heater exhaust started to leak. Fumes in cabin. Not acceptable. Local chandlery ordered a replacement presto. Fresh paint on the big green egg shelves. Oil the little bit of teak on the boat. Wash the windows I also sent the liferaft off to Auckland for service. The certificate expires every 3 years. They need to be inspected/certified every 3 years if you want to be able to count on them.

One more trip up the mast to inspect rigging and to install the storm jib stay. Look close and you can spot the ground crew that put me up here. Thanks Brad Tower and Grant Nelson! Seriously excellent crew.

All above is a lot of little things that add up to lots of time consumed. But there is absolutely nothing quite like a boat that is ready to take you anywhere you want to go.

Last NZ Tour

Nancy is coming back from Washington where she was helping her mom sort out her future. Maybe it would be nice if I picked her up at the Auckland airport.

It turned out to be a great idea!

We spent a couple rainy days in Auckland’s awesome museums. Monsoon rainy. With wind that stripped branches off more than a few trees. Then rounded up our rental car and headed for the Coromandel peninsula east of Auckland.

You can’t tour NZ without being struck by how incredibly beautiful this place is. And the Coromandel peninsula is just like that.

It was largely logged off a hundred years ago. But some 600 year old Kauri trees survive.

So we went for a visit. Nice hike on really well maintained trails. NZ takes their natural treasures seriously. Don’t expect they will be selling them off any time soon.

Our friend Lynn Ringseis recommended the B&B of some friends of hers. Steve and Marilyn’s Hush Accommodations just outside Coromandel Town. Good call. Super people in beautiful Coromandel Town. Lynn met them years ago when they were all managing charter sailboats. They have certainly not forgotten how to do hospitality!

It was a beautiful day for a drive across the Coromandel range. You can see forever from this pass.

Another must see is the Hobbit village from The Hobbit movies. Fun! We had a beer at the Green Dragon Inn. But there were no Hobbits about. No doubt they were all abroad having Adventures.

Behind us is the party tree from the movies.

Brad and Grant have just arrived in NZ. Nancy and I head for Opua to meet them. They are having a blast with NZ. Hard not to, it’s a great place.

Nancy has brought a bag of boat parts. Time to get to work on them!

X-Ray Vision

This post is a bit out of order. Pretend we are back in the yard briefly. Then we’ll get back to the water and more.

I looked at my yard bills and decided I’d beaten my deductible to a pulp. It was time to call on Novamar my insurance provider to cover some of the repairs as much of the work here was necessitated by the grounding in Fiji 5 months ago. This was a new experience for me in boat world.

Novamar’s adjuster Scott Labadie seemed to grasp quite quickly what was up. This was not his first grounding case. He referred me to Captain Kristoffer Diel, a marine surveyor in New Orleans. Well sort of from New Orleans. Turns out he spends a good deal of the year bouncing around the globe doing inspection work like this. Kris and I get on the phone and he tells me that he is “not going to be sanguine about the finished repairs” unless he gets his hands on Spill The Wine for his own inspection. Short of that he tells me to organize an infra-red scan of the hull structure. Sure! I know all about that!!

I ask around the yard and called a local boat surveyor. This technology must be a new application in the marine industry. At least this yard was not familiar with it. They all thought this guy was from the moon and had never heard of anyone doing this to assess a hull for damage. So I asked The Google. There is a company in Auckland (3.5 hrs drive) that has this technology. and they have done some marine work. A few days later they are on site at 7:30am.

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They have a monster propane burner that they use to warm up the hull. They film in IR as it cools down. Differential rates of cooling tell tales. Hull thicker (near beams it will be) or thinner or delaminated….. ew!

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Here you are looking at the IR guy with a ball cap on (face is white) and he is holding a maybe 12″ diameter hose blowing the hot air from the propane burner up at the hull to heat it up. The red spot top center is the front of the keel. I think…

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The right image is the IR image. Lighter is warmer, darker is cooler. The left image is for reference so you know what you are looking at. You can see that the technician has highlighted a few odd results but they are not conclusive. He explained to me that delamination really screams at you with this technique.

Anyway the report comes back as…. might be ok. But further investigation required. Captain Kris makes plans to come to NZ. He is currently in Cartegenia Columbia on a similar project. So I have a few days to Chill. In my own odd way.

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This is a winch. Its a handy thing when it comes time to tightening up a line with some serious tension. A lot to it on the inside. You put a handle on it and crank one way with whatever horsepower you’ve got and you can tighten up a line pretty quick. Reverse rotation with that crank and you will tighten up more slowly but with a lot of leverage. And thus control your sails that may well be under a great deal of tension. I have 4 winches. Nancy and I already too care of two of them, already done. And I’m going to tear apart the next two. Notice the roof behind the winch. Yes I really am still up in the air in the dang boat yard. I have really enjoyed working with the people here, but Spill the Wine needs her some Salt Water! Soon I suppose, but first…

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So now we are looking at a couple racks of roller bearing racks that need to be cleaned in solvent and regreased. That how it starts.

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And that is what she looks like with bearings removed. The Big Green Egg watches closely… But what is that wrench up to??

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Oh yeah. This thing comes off too. And there’s more bearings and gears.

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Here is the center axle. Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean and grease one of these things and take photos along the way without greasing your phone? If you live right you’ll never need to know.

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More stuff is probably going on under the gears in the base.

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Yeah there’s greasy bits. Assembly and disassembly take about 30 minutes. The parts cleaning and re greasing…. a couple hours. Probably would have gone faster if I’d skipped the photos.

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Here is the lot of the parts. Clean and ready to get together again.

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Clean parts are more fun to work with for sure. Can you spot the dental pick? My dad mailed me about 20 of those things about 15 years ago. And damn it those things are handy more often than I had ever imagined. Even the little wooden toothpick is handy sometimes.

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The keel got removed after the bottom paint went on. Kinda backwards but sometimes that’s how it goes. So I come along and touch up a few spots that got ding’d on project Keel Removal. And I noticed that the paint is not quite the same color. To I tagged my keel. Can you see the primitive image I made? Next time I need to get Nancy involved and give her a proper contrasting color. She has abilities in this realm that I do not.

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A couple other boat yard images. The rainbow speaks for itself. The boat photo above that is probably a work in progress but I think it needs to be clear coated at is. Industrial Art indeed!

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Captain Kris gets to New Zealand and I pick him up at the airport. I know his eyes are closed in the photo. And I know that Roddy’s were too in a previous post. Not sure what this means. If I find the hidden message I’ll post it here. I invite Kris to spend his NZ time on board STW and he likes the idea. Boats are boats and hotels are hotels. We all have our preference.

For the next few days he goes over the boat with a fine toothed comb. I always learn quite a bit during a survey. And this survey more than most. Very experienced and informative cat. Good news is the keel repairs pass. Which means STW can go back into the sea. There is no bad news. Kris’s tour of the STW reveals a number of things that could be organized more functionally in general. Nothing like the voice of experience far greater than mine.

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One suggestion was that I should have a fair chunk of a sail I can use to bandage a hole in the hull should I ever have that sort of issue. If you ever hit an underwater obstruction above the keel you can sling a hunk of sail over the hole and slow the water ingress way down. On a not so bad day your bilge pump might be able to keep up. And there was our neighbor whacking up an old sail! Perfect opportunity. Bandage acquired. Steve and Julie were awesome neighbors. Only sorry we were both in the yard long enough to meet the neighbors.

And it was a blast spending a few days with Capt. Kris. Thanks for coming aboard and yer invited back mate!

And Spill The Wine Returns to the sea.

Mom

We were in Mexico when I told Chris I had to go back to Washington.

Some of you know my mother. She is pretty amazing, especially at 92. She has lived alone for 19 years, since my dad died. She takes care of her house, drives, cooks, shops, gardens, and has a vodka & tonic every evening before dinner. She walks erect without a cane and with no osteoporosis, hasn’t turned all grey yet, and has no major health issues. But she had a bad fall, and I needed to come help her while she healed.

Despite her obvious independence, she needs to move. She has no community and is dependent on my sister & I for her needs. Since I am on the other side of the world, and Linda wants to retire and spend her time with kids & grandkids, I made it my goal to convince her this would be for the best.

Amazingly, she surprised all of us by finding a senior community near my niece and her family in Portland that she says feels “home-y”, and we put her on a waiting list. Although she is a bit overwhelmed, we have assured her we will help her through the process of going through her 4-bedroom house to manage her stuff.

I will return to help facilitate when I am needed. For now, I’ll be heading back to Chris in New Zealand, where he has planned a couple of weeks of fun for the two of us. I’m more than ready to be there!

That’s enough work on the boat already

So it was time to go sailing.  I had made the acquaintance of Todd who works in the yard and did a good bit of STW’s repairs.  He introduced me to Connie and Caleb.  They had very little exposure to sailing.  And they wanted to learn more.

Connie had a free weekend but not much experience.  I told her to watch an introduction to sailing video shot and produced by my friend Huub.  Here it is.  Suggest you watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo2PtgqI8Sc

Here is where it gets fun.  Connie did her homework.  We headed out sailing and from time to time she would say things like… “According to the video we should be doing xyz now”.  It was quite amusing to have Huub’s voice, once removed, back on the boat.

Our first outing was to be a weekend trip up the coast to Whangaroa.

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You can see it has a really small entrance and then opens up quite a bit.  Makes for awesome protection in dodgy weather.  And is just a beautiful place on a nice day.  So off we go and did I mention that this was an actual sailboat race?  It was.  And Connie had never been on a sailboat before.  I was not too worried about that because the forecast was for very little wind.  Everyone was afraid the event would amount to motoring to Whangraroa harbor to the point that some boats declined to go due to lack of wind.

Well actually there was plenty.  We sailed almost all of the 30 miles to Whangaroa.  We motored for 20 minutes to escape the Bay of Islands.  This was allowed by the race rules.IMG_20180324_160047502.jpg

As we head for the entrance our beautiful day is changing.  Rain is moving in.  On arrival we rafted up in a dead calm cove with some of the other participants.  And enjoyed a shower together (rain).  But we had enough shelter and the rain around here is usually brief.  And it was time, and the rafted sailors did dine.

The next morning after breakfast the raft came to an end.  It was Sunday and most of the participants had work the next day.  So off they went.  Connie and I still had food so we stayed anchored and went for a hike.  IMG_20180325_165413570_HDR.jpg

That looks doable.  Lets climb it.  I mean look at it.  There is all that wide open green grass to hike on, not so much bushwhacking.  The best laid plans brothers and sisters!IMG_20180325_104619666_HDR.jpg

The easy grass we had to hike on had about 18 inches of spring to it.  Kinda like walking in 2 ft deep snow.  Interesting and I hope you are not in a hurry.  IMG_20180325_112323108_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg

Water was a cool shade of turquoise in the bay.  IMG_20180325_113556350_HDR.jpg I’ll call this big nose rock.  Because.  It looks to have a nose on the right exposure eh?  And it looks easy to climb too.  Well maybe not as easy as what we just did.  Which kicked our butts.  Think we’ll pass.  IMG_20180325_115415454.jpg

Time to find our way back to the dingy and return to STW.  This has been hungry work.IMG_20180325_121732826_HDR.jpg

Connie thinks we should be collecting oysters.  There appear to be a few in the neighborhood!  I did a quick google search on how to schuck.  I always forget.IMG_20180325_175149662_HDR.jpgAnd I forgot to get a photo before we started munching down on the oysters in question.  But they were tasty.  And fresh.

Successful shakedown for a boat fresh out of the yard, and successful first sailing trip for Connie.  She learns fast and will go far.  Like maybe to Mangonui next weekend.  I told her to see if he boyfriend Caleb could join us.  And he could.

Connie and Caleb showed up with mucho groceries and we headed for Doubtless Bay.Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.25.52 PM

If you look close you’ll see a small notch in the peninsula on the right side of the chart.Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.27.08 PM

Takerua Bay.  That is where we were headed.  We spent the first night in the Cavalli islands.  Lamb burgers were the special of the day.  Not a lot of protection but the wind was mild.  The next day it got better and we sailed off further north.  Arrived Takerua bay in time for a swim and a nap.  Then Caleb our on board marine biologist, went snorkeling for Lobster.  With some success.  Short hike on shore was fun too.IMG_20180402_150720683_HDR.jpgSpill The Wine Abides.IMG_20180402_151131795_HDR.jpgAnd so does the Shadow with his traditional pampas grass stalk.

How to prepare the Lobster?  Caleb and Connie suggested a beach boil.  And off we went.  On the beach there was enough stuff to sit on, that is always a challenge in the wild.  But nothing like a table.  Caleb pulls one out of his hat!

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 8.48.30 PMThen we rounded up firewood and started heating the hot tub for the main course.IMG_20180402_173023140.jpgPlease be patient.  We’ll be with you as soon as the water is ready…   So dinner on the beach was successful.  Except the sun did not set on the water like we’d planned.  Sigh.IMG_20180401_181234761_HDR.jpgSunset from the previous day will have to do.

Anyway we enjoyed dinner and the beach.  I brought my guitar ashore.  On the way back to the boat the surf was up slightly.  Enough that the dinghy took a wave over the bow.  Good day to have your guitar in a water proof case.  I made one the previous summer for a hiking trip.  The key here is not only did I have it, I used it.  I’m a slow learner but given enough time I get by.IMG_20180403_180413347_HDR.jpgI was hunting for something in the boat and I came across this sticker.  Some of you might remember the Flaming Mo episode from the Simpsons.  1991.  I asked Caleb if he knew what the sticker was.  He did!  Bugger was 12 and living in NZ when that first aired.  Talk about cultural penetration!  Or pollution.  Depends on how much you do or don’t like the Simpsons.

Trip back included another night at Whangeroa harbor.  Connie and Caleb took the dingy for a spin.  I had some boat work to get after.  One of my favorite things after all!  🙂IMG_20180328_182013123.jpgAnd it was a good night to roast a chicken.  And feed the bones to the crabs!  Sometimes the crabs feed you.  Sometimes you feed the crabs!IMG_20180326_082841762.jpgThis was breakfast.  Fog did not last too long and we made it back to Opua in time for dinner.  Great to have Connie and Caleb join Spill The Wine.  It was fun to watch them get into the rhythm of the boat.  On the last day I did not have to tell them what to do anymore.  Things just started to happen.  They get invited back.  Or rather they would if I could get ahead of all the boat hoohaa I have to get done before STW heads back to Fiji!  Stay tuned.

Boatyard Tales

There is always plenty to do on a boat. We had her hauled out in February before Nancy and I left for Mexico. You see her here in a TravelLift. Pretty common boatyard tool to move boats in and out of the water.

Katrina and Roddy got busy and removed the prop and drive shaft.

There are a few moving parts in this prop.

And they are carefully machined and balanced to work well together.  Ya gotta love brass!  The purpose of all this engineering is to build a prop that will rotate it’s blades to be parallel with the direction of the boat’s travel when the motor isn’t used. That way there is less drag when you are sailing. A normal prop is fine when you are motoring, but when sailing it provides as much drag as a towing a 5 gallon bucket. A prop that feathers it’s blades can gain you 1/2 a knot. And 10% more speed amounts to a day faster passage on a thousand miles.

Here’s Roddy taking the prop apart. Note the greasy bit still on the shaft.

Anyway the prop can be greased while out of the water. And prop removal was required to allow replacement of the prop shaft cutless bearing.

The cutless bearing lives in the strut. The press rig is set up to remove it.

Next was to remove the prop shaft and send it off to make sure that it was straight. Katrina is victorious! Shaft is removed. And turned out to be strait.

There is a concern. One of my crew bumped a rock in Fiji 5 months ago. Didn’t seem like too hard of a blow at the time.

But it did fail the joint between the forward end of the keel and the hull. Lets water into the joint. Not a big deal I thought at the time. Now the question is whether the keel should be removed to properly be resealed.

If you look closely you can see water seeping out of the joint. Problem is it has been out of the water for three weeks. This should have stopped long ago. Unless the fiberglass itself is saturated with water and gradually letting it go. Oh boy. That doesn’t sound good.

Anyway that answers the question of whether the keel needs to be removed or not. It does.

This was a doing. Todd from the boatyard spent a day chiseling at the joint. It’s bolted and glued. You want to weaken the glue by 80% or so. Then when you release the keelbolts the keel can be separated from the hull without too much drama.

 

Carl was a lean mean keel removing machine. This guy knows a lot about his work and is quite interested in sharing that knowledge. Great to work with this whole team.

After the keel separated we noted that there were 6 inch deep pockets in the top of the keel. And they were full of water. Hmmmm. So the pieces now fit. Seal failure. Seawater ingress fills pockets. Boat on the hard and joint weeps. Then it rains and fills the pockets again. And on you go. So it was the pockets weeping, not my fiberglass hull. Well that’s good news.

Team dried out the pockets and painted the top of the keel. Boat hangs overnight in the TravelLift to dry the paint.

This is an uncomfortable situation. My mast is 63′ high. Normally there is 7000 lbs of cast iron on the bottom of the boat to make it not so top heavy. Problem is the keel is no longer attached. Spill the Wine is top heavy now. I put a couple lines from high on the mast to the ground to stabilize it. And there wasn’t much wind thank you very much.

The next morning the team applied sealant then lowered the boat back on to the keel. Then the 10 keel bolts, 1 cm each, all need 450 ft lbs of torque. They brought in a 5 foot torque wrench to get that done. I worked with Dave on this project and it was a lot of torqueing. 450 is a large number.

Another bit of business was aligning the motor. There is a flanged bit of steel that bolts to the end of the propshaft. It is then bolted to the transmission. These have to be square with one another. They’re not quite right.

If you look closely you’ll get it. I’ve placed a light source beneath the joint. You can see light on the right side of the joint but not so much on the left. Not square.

So one merely loosens the motor mounts and wiggles the motor around to get right and left edges aligned. Then you adjust the tilt of the motor to align top and bottom and bolt it all back up. No problem! Four cylinder diesel engines are easy to wiggle!

I’ll have to do this again when she’s been back in the water a bit, but I wanted to get it close since it was taken apart.

Then it was time to tighten up the engine mounts.  Three of them tightened up ok.  One wouldn’t.  Turns out the engine mounts are secured with bolts with a washer ad a nut on the inside of the beam the motor rests on.  You did catch that right?  On the INSIDE of the beam.  Now in the case of the three that happened to tighten up anyway, there was access provided so you could get a box wrench on the nut to make prevent it from rotating with the bolt (and not tightening anything).

It turns out I have a selection of hole saws on board.  Used one of them to put an access hold into the side of the beam.  Sounds easy enough.  Trick was there is almost no room to get this bit done either.  I had to put the drill under the motor.  Very little room to do that.  Then mount the hole saw in the drill chuck.  Then put the battery on the drill.  These three pieces had to go down separately to get them under the engine.  Then I went after the beam and made holes about 1.5 inches across that would let me get a wrench on the nuts.  Next time it will be easier!  And stop laughing at me for packing hole saws!

 

Biking Northland

A friend of mine, John Larsen, has his boat in a boat yard about 20 kilometers from here. He’s having some interesting work done I wanted to go over and see how his progress was coming along. The trick is he doesn’t have time to give me a ride back so do I hitchhike or maybe I should ride my bike…

The roads here are all 2-lane and the drivers tend to drive… enthusiastically let’s say. As pretty as the country is that’s really not a formula for the most enjoyable ride.

So I ask the Google. I got three choices.

The the top route goes along the two-lane Highway. So does the bottom one. The one in the middle got to go straight and it goes through the Opua Forest. That has to sound attractive. Google has a slick feature that tells you about elevation gained and lost so you’ll know how much up and downhill you have to worry about on your bike.

If if you look at the bottom of this image you’ll see there’s a profile of the trail that I’m about to undertake. Sure there’s some vertical but it doesn’t look evil.

I set out from John’s boat yard. He loans me a helmet because I didn’t bring one from Seattle, and they’re required by law here. I found a little bit of pavement at the beginning and a little bit of pavement at the end but the rest was all gravel road through very rural terrain.

As soon as I left the main highway behind, I saw three cars the rest of the journey.

Now there looks like a lost bike in high weeds. By now you might have noticed that my bicycle is my subject. I’m out here by myself here and it’s hard to take a picture of yourself without it looking kind of selfie.

HitchHiking in New Zealand

Best place to HitchHike ever! Pretty easy. And I’ve met some interesting cats. My trips have been limited to local. It’s been raining frequently through our every day. Accordingly a three hour trip to Auckland is bound to soak you. And there’s bus service to Auckland anyway. But I nick over to Paihia or KeriKeri a couple times a week for groceries or parts. I made up some signs for these destinations as well as Opua for the return trip.

I’ve probably got 50,000 miles HitchHiking over my lifetime and I’ll share with you some tricks I’ve used to help the drivers more quickly decide whether to pick you up or not. You have 10 seconds to make the sale.

Attitude matters. Just about everybody wants to give you a ride. But there are reasons to say no. They don’t know whether their trip will get you closer to your destination. They might think you look scary. Hitchers as a category don’t enjoy the best reputation. Everything about how you approach HitchHiking has to work to defeat that stereotype.

Here’s an attitude sketch for you. Guy picks me up in the US Southwest in 1980. We are chatting and he wants to know what I’m up to. I tell him that I’m on a tour that started in Toledo Ohio then went to Seattle, then south to LA, and now I’m on my way to Atlanta where I’ll head back North for Toledo. He was impressed. I was a bit startled by the journey myself (I was 20).

Then he asked me how long the different legs had taken. When I told him he was astounded at the pace I was making. I was getting rides way more easily than he would have expected.

And why were his expectations so different than my reality? Turns out he’s done some HitchHiking himself. Told me it took him 2 weeks to hitch from Chicago to LA. I went into listen mode and he described the trip. He carried a pistol in his backpack. Because he was afraid of the drivers. One might do him wrong. People can see fear in your body language. And they won’t want you in their car. Living a fearful life really takes the fun out of living.

I’ve had exactly zero times in the many miles when I was worried about what a driver’s intent was. Some maybe didn’t drive well but that’s another issue.

One trick I’ve already mentioned. Have a sign. You have destination. You are not some lost soul that will be burden the driver. And they can sort out very quickly whether their trip would do you any good.

No sunglasses. Eye contact helps the driver connect with you and helps convince them that you are not a loony. Smile! It’s a beautiful day!

Look clean. No weird message T-shirts. One bag would be plenty. Too much gear and you look a burden. I tried hitching with a 6 pack of beer once. If that made any difference I can’t say I noticed. Maybe I shouldn’t have drank all of them… But that was so long ago.

Pick a spot where there is plenty of room for the driver to safely get on the shoulder. The last deal breaker is “I woulda picked ’em up but there was no room to pull over!”

I’d have to add, one of the strangest rides I ever got was at night on the Florida freeway. A woman driving a Pinto (you remember, the ones that were famous for exploding when rear ended) backed it up across a freeway bridge to pick me up. Long story but alcohol was involved on her end.

I hitch alone. I’ve found that my worst luck getting rides was when there were two of us. Two women would probably do well as a pair but it never worked for me.

Remember drivers have very little time to sort you out. Anything you can do to simplify their decision process will get you to your destination sooner.

Once you are on board your function is to make the driver’s day a better one for having picked you up. Sometimes that means you tell stories, sometimes that means you listen. Sometimes you feel like you are hearing a confession. Especially if you are in a car with a driver on a longer leg.

So for my first go I’m off to KeriKeri for supplies and maybe the bank. I get a ride immediately with two women that are on their way to go golf. We chat a bit then our paths diverge at a bottle shop. They need some beer for golfing. Maybe I should have been a golfer…

Another guy on that trip was maybe 30. He was just coming from a farm. He’s a livestock broker. He puts livestock buyers and sellers together. He tells me about some of his farmers being kinda crazy. I get that, as an optometrist I’ve had patients that were kinda crazy. ( You know who you are!)

When I arrived on the plane on Feb 28th I hitched to the marina. First guy was a short hop. On his way to a meeting. But he got me to an intersection where more of the traffic was going my way. That’s progress.

Then a couple Mauri guys took me on. The Mauri were the original inhabitants of NZ before white people came along. They were having a good day. It was a pleasure to share part of it with them.

The next two rides turns out to be sailors. No surprise really, NZ is full of sailors. Extensive experience in and about the South Pacific. You know we got along!

So that was 4 rides from airport to marina. Probably 20 miles. If I rented a car it would have taken longer. Surprised I don’t see more hitchers here.

Yesterday I hitched to Paihia. I had to mail Nancy her computer. It’s maybe four miles. I got a ride with Cindy. Top down Mazda Miata. And a good thing too as I was a tight fit in that little shoe of a car. She does work to help people with body energy. No shortage of energy for her. I definitely went into listen mode. We got along and she offered to take me back to Opua when our mutual shopping was done. She was also a bluewater sailor. And seemed to know everybody in Opua. Ok. Opua is only so big…

Today is Feb 3 and I’m off for Auckland on the bus. An old friend from Ohio State Optometry will be in Auckland with her husband for a few days. I’m going to try to catch them there. If I can’t find them I’ll go find the America’s Cup and prostrate myself or something.

But there is a problem. The bus that normally comes to Opua will not be doing so. There is a mudslide somewhere causing trouble with traffic. Now this has been a problem for weeks. And when I booked the bus yesterday there was no mention of no Opua. Then this morning I get a notification that I have to go to Paihia to catch that bus. So my walk becomes a hitchhike. And I have a Sign and I ain’t askeered a’ nothin!

One ride. Nice fellow who did not talk much. Tobacco took his voicebox away. So I told him a couple stories and we shared a laugh. I was not too sure where the bus stop was but he knew. And I had time for Lunch! Or maybe it was second breakfast… Hobbit zone you know.

Enter the Auckland

Arrived downtown Auckland on the bus. Found my way to the Base Hostel. The young folks that joined Spill The Wine on the way across the Pacific stay at these places. So I thought I’d try it. Base is 10 stories. Maybe 20 rooms per floor. 4 beds per room. Showers/loo down the hall. And they sold them all at 25 bucks per bed.

A high tide of young people had filled the downtown scene. And certainly this hostel. I’m glad chemotherapy made my grey hair go away in 2014. I try to pass as someone way younger than I am. Keep the lights low.

I check in and find my room. Two young women already in residence. I get the bottom bunk. Say hello and go for a walk. It’s interesting how this works. If you have no privacy you ignore each other and pretend you do. Ok then.

A classmate of mine from Ohio State days is here in town for a meeting. Time to go find her. Maybe she found me… Anyway the whole bunch of eye docs is having dinner here in the hotel. I crash the party. What else would a pirate do? It was fun. I had traveled with this group a few times in the past. Great to catch up with Christine and her husband Tim.

They crashed. Had to happen, jet lag did them in.

As I walk about I note security is reasonably visible.

These officers are chatting with a shopkeeper. I note the police here are armed with tasers but that is all.

About 10% of the population is licensed to own guns. But people carrying them about is not customary. So if there are no guns on the street, the cops don’t need them either.

Bruno Mars is playing at the big downtown arena. That might be worth seeing. I walk over. Hmm sold out. And no scalpers. Not even one. So I move on down the road. Find a pub with a good band for awhile and then head back to the hostel.

There is a disco in the hostel basement. Low ceiling. No jumping! The music was unfortunate but the room was having fun so it was a decent space to be in.

Three lads adopted me. Nice of them. After awhile one of them buys the first round of rum/redbull heart attack in a jar drinks. I’m in Rome now!

After awhile we went to another similar spot. Same scene really. It was in a basement too. But the rum/energy drinks were a different color. I guess that’s progress.

Thanks to the meds I’m not out of gas but eventually I decided it was time to find my way to my room anyway. Hope I did not snore.

Remember I was pressed for time to catch the bus to Auckland? Well in my haste I forgot a few things. A toothbrush would have been nice. A towel maybe? And a hairbrush? Some soap? I found the handwashing sink and put a bunch of hand soap on my head. The redbull made me do it!

After my shower I start to look like a scary HitchHiker. And the scary hitcher checked out and wandered down to the waterfront.

Where else, it’s me remember? 🙂 Lots of Volvo ocean racing sleds.

Here’s five of the seven racers. Wow! They shrinkwrap them because… It’s just what you do. Part of their PR program on let’s use less plastic maybe. These boats get hammered in the southern ocean. Auckland rain gonna be a problem?

And don’t bonk that keel on a reef. Certainly run up a bill.

Some of them are getting some damage control. Must have hit a few fish pretty hard!

All these racing boats are identical. One of the exhibits was one boat cut away to reveal the interior. These boats are not generous on space. And they sail with a crew of 7 to 11 adult members. That gets crowded. The exhibit was populated exclusively with children. Lots of them.

This looks like a rack of weasels in the cockpit. Now what the photo is hiding from you is that every one of them is in constant motion, having a blast. :). Made me dizzy just watching.

The way to the bus stop it uphill, but it is time to get moving.

By Way of Mexico

We discovered that flying from Cartegena to NZ would cost $500 less if we went to Mexico for a few days. Kinda last minute, but we have always enjoyed Mexico, so why not? We departed and connected to our plane to Mexico City in Bogota Columbia. I have to comment on this airport. I was not expecting too much but Bogota’s airport is huge. And New. And full of shops from all over the world. Top shelf airport for real. Makes LA look unfortunate. We arrive Mexico City and connect to Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.

Once we found our hotel it was nap time. The next few days we relaxed more than anything else. Easy place for that. Nice anchorage in case I ever get back here by boat.

This guy thinks it’s a good day to fish. Yes it’s a blurry photo, but I like the bird and his shadow

Our friend Jerry Brennan tags me and tells me to look up his brother in Ixtapa. We do and have lunch and a nice day on the beach with Jim. Thanks Jim!

There are beach vendors of course. One guy has some pretty unusual jewelery for sale. Tells us they are selling very well. Certainly tells a tale. Zoom for details.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that in our wide travels we have found that the president of the United States is universally reviled. Almost. We have met three people that think he’s ok. The people we are meeting are dismayed by the loss of the United States. We were once a superpower with friends all around the globe. Serving as a powerful check on Russia’s expanding power. Now the US is a heavily armed state that is quite isolated internationally. And the current administration for some reason has no appetite for confronting Russia in any way. Tragic. And dangerous.

We left Zihuatanejo for Puerto Vallarta on an evening flight. So we had all day still. We visited an archeological museum in Zihuatanejo. Pretty cool. People have been living in this zone for thousands of years and the history is interesting. Really helpful museum manager Omar chats with us about the area’s history for a bit and recommends another museum out by the airport. Well it is on our way!

We get there and it is far from crowded. It is kinda in the middle of nowhere.

But they have a pyramid that was discovered a few years back. Prior to “discovery” these things look like hills.

If you look over Nancy’s right shoulder you will see a hill. Actually an unexcavated pyramid.

Here is another view. If you look close you can almost see a small white flower on that tree that otherwise looks dead. I’ll have to ask Gandalf if that means the Aztecs are coming back…

The pyramids were built about a thousand years ago. They were lost in the 1300s when a tsunami roared in here and killed everyone and destroyed everything in the valley.

Here are some unrestored steps. They have been excavated but kept under this corrugated steel for protection. And the low cover keeps people off them too! Even more protection!

And there is a ball court here:

Where they used to play their ancient ball game. Note the goal is missing. It’s in the museum.

Nancy and I are standing by one of the old goal posts. They have been brought indoors so no one runs off with them. Sometimes the loser’s hearts were sacrificed to the gods. The winners got superbowl rings or something. The museum itself was also quite good. We had a guide who was born in the area who was quite informative.

Boom, time to get to the airport. No sweat until… Our flight to Mexico City is delayed. Our 40 minute layover in Mexico City becomes 20. Not going to make our connection.

Alright then. Let’s spend the night in Mexico City. Aero Mexico rebooks us for Puerto Vallarta the next morning.

We get a cab to our hotel. It’s 1.3 miles away and takes 25 minutes to get there. Traffic is tough here tonight. Local pizza etc places are all closed. So we order room service.

Alexander delivers. He tells me he worked and paid taxes for 18 years in San Francisco. Was managing a restaurant when one night ICE raided the place and deported them all. His wife and children still live there. They are on welfare now that his income is lost to them. He’s not making nearly the money in Mexico. Why the US is so afraid of brown people who have such strong work ethic I will never understand. Deporting this guy was an expensive process that we continue to pay for as we support his now broken family.

The next morning we get a shuttle to the airport and off for Puerto Vallarta. We rent a car and drive to La Cruz.

It’s fun to be back in La Cruz. Familiar restaurants, people. Saturday night was Nancy’s birthday. Dan and Nancy from s/v Karvey joined us for a great dinner at Langosta Diaz. They have been sailing in the Sea of Cortez for some years.

The next day we were scouting about in the beach communities north of La Cruz. All good fun until I missed a traffic light. I went thru it red. C’mon! I’m not from around here!

If you miss a traffic light in Mexico, you get a ticket. And they keep your license until you pay..

The ticketing officer spoke not so much English. And my Spanish is weak. He tried to tell me where the police station was, where you have to pay your fine. I was clueless. But I got the drift that it was nearby. So today I return to the scene of the crime. And start looking for the station. As I made a left turn I note there is a cop behind me. Dios! Turns out it is the ticketing cop again. He calls me by name now “Chris tow fer”! He has another go at the directions with similar results to yesterday. Thanks for trying. I move on and find another cop. Still no directions I can understand.

Click! Why not ask a taxi! So I did. This is working and I get what I need. Then the taxi driver shows me a ticket he just got. It’s going around… I try to tip him for his help but he declines. Just happy to help a fellow perpetrator!

Tickets are payable at Policia Municipal office. And if your ticket was on Sunday. Well you’ll just have to come back Monday. They open at 9. What ever. It’s just an hour’s drive each way. And I’ve a plane to catch about 1pm. It gets worse. Station is in another time zone. 9 at the police station is 10 in Puerto Vallarta. Tightens up the plane connection considerably. Anyway I’m on site and ready to pay. Just open the door!

And they did. And 15 minutes early. Nice woman was helping me with the ticket. The fine is $400 pesos. About 20 US dollars. Then it turns out the filing cabinet is locked so I can’t have a receipt, holding up the show. She calls and texts to try to figure out when the keys will arrive. Finally figures out that her coworker with the keys is due soon, but they opened early so “soon” is open to interpretation. She asks me if I have time to wait? Well there is this airplane problem… And as for a receipt, do I care? Not really, so long as I get my driver’s license back.

And I did. And got a photo in lieu of receipt. Even better. I would have lost a receipt anyway. Now to burn down the road to the airport.

I didn’t run any more lights. But there was some speeding maybe. But it’s hard to speed on a busy 2 lane road. I tried! Made the plane ok and I’m off for New Zealand via LA.

While waiting in the airport I hear from our friend Kat. She has been looking after Spill The Wine in my absence and is departing the boat for Germany and Spain today. Time to take more coursework to get her Yacht Master documentation. This is UK equivalent of US Coast Guard Captain’s license. Good for her!

It’s time. I go to NZ today. Nancy goes to Seattle in two more days to help her mom, she fell recently. When the boat is back in the water she will be ready to come back down to NZ.

Cartegena Columbia

We’ve heard great things about Columbia. So time to go and see. We spotted this in the Mexico City on our way. The reader board was sharing details regarding traveling with your pet.

Now I’ve been on some chicken busses, but never chicken planes. Maybe it will be different… Cockfighting is more common in Mexico than in Seattle I’m thinking.

We arrive in Cartegena and find our way through the airport, customs, and a taxi to the hotel. Which is located inside the old walled city.

Back in the day this was one of the largest ports in the new world. Gold, silver, slaves, agricultural products flowed through. Accordingly the Spanish and the English were frequently fighting for control over Cartegena.

Cannons are handy to discourage Invaders. They were all over the fortifications.

There is a hill just outside the walled city. Once it was used by the English as high ground for an attack to successfully take Cartegena. And then the Spanish took it back and did some major fortifications to the hill. And that was the end of anyone taking the city, it remained Spanish until Columbia’s independence in 1810.

This guy is a piece of Columbian history. He was a military officer that went into politics after conflict with the English became less of a full time occupation. If you’re paying attention he has one leg, one arm and one eye. Tough son of a gun!
The Old City is serious about it’s architectural heritage. You can remodel one of these 300+ year old structures. But you are not taking them down. One modern building was allowed in this town. Everybody hates it. And before long it will be replaced with more traditional stuff.

And the architecture is worth preserving. We enjoyed pleasant evenings in several of the squares in town.

Columbian people are worth talking about. Very friendly outgoing folks. Street vendors can be annoying but here the were approachable and had a great sense of humor. Not that they were any less ambitious to sell you stuff.

Hats were a big item. If you did not have one, you were an instant mark. One evening a guy picked me out for a Hat pitch at one end if the city. Later that night he hit me again as Nancy and I were riding along in a horse drawn carriage. Later still he found us dining outdoors in a square on the other side of town.

Regrets in life. Shoulda bought my hat from this guy. I did end up getting one. Advice for you, dear reader. If you go to a place like this that is going to have street vendors selling hats and other things, bring a hat. Failing that, buy one the first day. The rest of your visit you won’t have any hat vendors after you.

Here we have the mother load. The watershed of Hats etc that feeds all the vendors in the city.

We took a tour that included a trip up another hill to 300+ year old monastery. Awesome view. This photo includes the old City, top right. The fortified hill can be seen just this side of the walled city. To the left bottom downtown Cartegena. Pretty happening place. Back left is Boca Grande. A peninsula that is being populated with lots of high rises, many residential.

And this was HQ for the Spanish Inquisition in Cartegena.

With all the gold that passed through Cartegena you’d think they might have a gold museum. They did.

This is a cool display of earrings many hundreds of years old.

After all that touring you get tired!

Popular with locals was catching breeze and shade in an old cannon port in the fort wall. Frequently in amorous embrace! You don’t get a photo of that. 🙂

And it was certainly hot in Cartegena, but there was a steady breeze most days making all the difference. Here I’m one shirt to the wind and I’ve finally got a hat. Which likes to blow away in said wind! I made a chinstrap later.

Our phones work pretty well in Columbia. Good internet most of the time. That being the case Kat, who is watching out for Spill the Wine’s progress in the boatyard was able to keep me up to date on how all that was progressing. Decently.

When you get started on a project there are always surprises. The prop shaft bearing (aka cutlass bearing) is done. Tricky bit to press the old one out and new in. But Kat got it done.

Time to find our way back. Through Mexico. Then I head for NZ and Nancy for Seattle briefly.

On the road to Loreto

Nancy and I took a bus from Opua to Auckland. Kind of a bummer we are leaving just hours before the our friends Tony and Lee get in from Australia. Well you never know. We were walking down the sidewalk at the Auckland bus station and Tony comes busting out a door. He saw my legs going by he says. So we get to spend a minute with them after all. 🙂

We are set to fly to LA early in the morning. So we are hotel bound. We get settled and walk to a restaurant that’s not too far away. But we have to walk past a cemetery. I’m whistling naturally but can’t help but spot SpongeBob. Not him really, just one of his biggest fans. Passed on unfortunately. And he was about my age… Who knew SpongeBob’s demographic was so broad!

We made our flight to LA. 12 hrs, ouch. In LA we rent a car and drive to Oceanside to visit Nancy’s niece and family. Super nice people. They have a vintage trailer in their yard for visitors. Fun!

Here is Grand niece Maia not whining a bit! Seriously she was a delight as was her sister Alexis and brother Dorian. He’s nearly two and likes boots and dancing. But clothes not so much…

This guy is a card for real.

It’s fun to be the uncle!

After a nice visit we are off for Loreto. At the LA airport we meet a bunch of the crew that are connecting and off we go. There are vans to haul 20 odd people off to the resort. Which was in the middle of nowhere on a very attractive bay.

This would be me and the Birthday Boy.

The next day we took a side trip to a mission up the hill about 20 miles. Nancy and I had been there about 23 years ago. It was not changed that I could see.

It was from 1700 or so. Pretty darn old. There were 40,000 people living up that valley when the Jesuits came. The Catholic Church cast out the Jesuits some years later during some power struggle. By then there were 5000 people. Missionaries brought unfamiliar diseases that killed the rest. Hopefully their souls were saved before they died.

There were some beautiful flowers blooming. I think these are bougainvillea. We toured an olive grove that was 350 years old. Jesuits planted them. They still get plenty of olives.

Jesuits also planted fruit trees. Check the skin thickness on this funky lemon. We ate it. A mite sour maybe! When I’m as old as those trees I expect to be quite sour…

We also saw some spectacular roosters. Cockfighting is a diversion in the middle of nowhere.

I took a hike with some other birthday crowd to the other side of the point. It was Hot and Dry as only the desert can be. Time for a swim. The water was cold and it was a good thing. Very shortly I was properly chilled for the return trek.

Another day I rented a bike. A very stylish beach cruiser. Which I used to tour the golf course. Nice facility. Strung out across a rack of hills to the edge of the sea. Nice hills to ride. But then the bike was too small for me. One gear only. Brakes on rear only. Kind of a disaster really. I’m the wrong guy for the bike and it’s the wrong bike for the terrain. I about spun out trying to get the inadequate brakes to keep speed under control on the dirt track. But did not thank you! Rehabing my own bike in Opua was a bit of work but this bike made me very glad I fixed mine. Mine fits, goes about anywhere, has front and rear brakes, multiple gears, and isn’t stylish. 🙂

Our friends Art and Sharon were able to make the trip. Great to see them outside WA. Sharon and I had a go at stand up paddle boarding. New to me. Great way to go swimming every few minutes. I’ll probably get better. No photos. Too wet!

Another day was notable for a boat trip to an island to snorkel and hike. Visibility was only ok and water cold. So let’s hike!

This was the view from the top of the bump I scrambled up. Serious desert county. The dots on the beach are Nancy and the rest of the compadres. There’d better be some beer left when I get down! There was. 🙂

We did escape the reservation (aka resort) a bit. Made it to Loreto one afternoon. Nice little town as I remembered it. 23 years has not hurt Loreto, still charming.

Next we head to Cartegena Columbia.

Return to Bay of Islands

1/11/2018
Ok, ok, it’s a sailblog after all. Let’s get back to the boat. Our friend Kat picks us up at the airport in KeriKeri. And takes us to home sweet Spill The Wine.

Exciting times ensue if you enjoy whacking parts on your boat. And I am odd that way. Kat was looking after STW while we were gone and noted that the bilge pump had expired. There was an extra one on board and she and another friend Roddy diagnosed the existing pump (fatal, seized bearing and roasted armature), and put the spare into service. Broke my heart not being able to attend. Oh well.

But there was plenty to do with Mr. Well Traveled Box of Parts! Visors for the side opening port. So you don’t necessarily need to close the windows for a bit of rain. Makes better ventilation.

Cockpit speakers. I already told the sad tale of the death by corrosion of my previous pair. 8 years is a long time for speakers in a marine environment. Replacement not to dramatic. Worked.

I brought a new water pump for the freshwater system. The pump that originally came with the boat began to deliver at a reduced pressure some years ago. So I retired it to be a spare and replaced it. Recently the replacement developed a short circuit. Fatal. So I put the original back into service. And it still delivered at a usable but undesirably low pressure. Hence this replacement. New one delivers great pressure and the low pressure one is once again retired to spare status. Note that here and whereever else possible I want my spare to be a plug and play replacement. Sometimes this means modifying the wiring of the unit to achieve “plug and play”, but I do it. Easier now at my leisure than in the dark some lonesome night.

There is a strainer between the fresh water tank and the fresh water pressure pump to keep debris out of the pump mechanism. For some reason the lid keeps cracking. Chronic. Every year or two it cracks, allows air into the system, and the fresh water pump is not designed to pump air. Chokes it. I lost another lid recently and so brought more spares.

I had a rope clutch fail. Everybody has rope clutches right? You pass a rope through these devices, close the lever, and they secure the line where you left it. If you don’t have one go get one! Like so:

In this photo you see two banks of triple clutches to handle 6 lines. The winch to the right is used to put serious tight on the lines before engaging the clutch to keep them there.

There is a pin running through the clutches from side to side. The ends supported by a tough plastic side plate. Now I just replaced my device. But since then I learned that you can replace those side plates. So I ordered another pair of those and will rehab my old triple clutch. And, you’ll never guess, put it into the Spares Bin! 🙂

Speaking of spares, I acquired another bilge pump so I would still have a spare. And I wired it so it would plug and play.

And it wasn’t all work. Plenty of time to enjoy friends, and do some sailing with the Opua Cruising Club! My boat is not in order yet so I bum a ride on a local boat. Fun bunch. And generous wind.

2/2/2018

Time for STW to come out of the water. Bottom paint. Gelcoat repairs. Window leaks. And she’s up on stands in Opua. It’s fun to live on a boat in the yard.

Nice ladder to get you on and off. Time to huddle with fiberglass fixers and bottom painters to get things planned. Kat will be living aboard and so able to monitor progress.

Before we left I wrapped up one more project. My sad bicycle. It spent too much time on deck in the weather and spray. By the time we arrived in New Zealand the handlebars would no longer turn. Nevermind the shifters. Or the flat tire.

Behold the rusty steering bearings and rusty bearing race! The bearing race comes off with a press of sorts. I hauled it off to a bike shop to get the steering bearings replaced. Special tools required. For the rest I dismantled completely and greased everything. I had extra shifters in the magic spares bin. I ran new control cables for brakes and derailleurs. Dismantle and grease the brake mechanism (not the shoes…). Sanded the very rusty handlebars and painted them. New chain. Put it all back together and it rides like a new bike. Nice note to leave town on.

In a few days Nancy and I will depart for Loreto Mexico. We know a guy who’s turning 60. Tom Easton. Mistress of ceremonies Karen Easton. And various attendees. Should be fun.