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.


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!


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.


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…



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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.



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!


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.


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.



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

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.


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.

Auckland to Wellington by Train

1/2/2018 In a vertical country it is easier to build a railway. Like a spine! We sleep well, if all too briefly, after arriving from Seattle last night. Catching the train for Wellington at 0745.\n Takes all day. And will be a peaceful ride through the backyards and back roads of New Zealand. And we are ready for peaceful. Train runs through some mountains. At one point there is a spiral tunnel carved into a cliff to gain altitude more gradually than the terrain would otherwise allow. They are telling us that each foot of altitude gain can be accomplished in no less than 50 feet of track. Steeper than that and engine loses traction. Maybe with more locomotives steeper might work.

Views are fantastic. And the pace is a big relax. Really like train travel. We chat with our neighbor about the area. She is very local. Her dad worked on the railway. Finally we arrive in Wellington. Big old time train station from the golden age of rail. Awesome. Wellington proves to be a delightful city.

They have a botanical garden worthy of the name. You ride an ancient cable car up the hill and walk down thru the garden. And it’s a beautiful day!

Somehow they must have heard that my wife Nancy Patterson was coming to town. And they reserved a parking spot. Nice folks. We should have rented a car! Or maybe it’s a no parking zone… Other countries are so confusing!

Their waterfront was awesome. Lots of cool brass stuff like Mexico has on their Malecons. But it’s a bit spookily underpopulated. Turns out this is the capitol of NZ. And it’s a holiday weekend. So they are all off in the bush enjoying their countryside! Leaving the town to the few that remain behind. Works out.

Around town and in the airport there are creations from WETA. Movie prop making group here in Wellington. Awesome work.

After a couple Wellington days we fly to Queensland on the South island. Very interesting experience. Hit the airport. Go through security. They did not ask for any ID other than our boarding pass. We told them who we were, and they took us where we needed to go. Very refreshing. This was the pattern through all of our travels in New Zealand. We rented a van to facilitate touring.

Queensland is a nice enough tourist town but it’s definitely a tourist town. This is their industry. After picking up the van we drove up the Central Otego valley to do some wine tasting. The have lovely wine here but great Pinot Noir for sure. We stop at the first bungee jumping place ever. Maybe. But it is spectacular. They toss customers off a bridge and they are recovered by a raft in the river below. Unrivaled setting.

Queensland is on beautiful lake Wakatipu. If you look you might see some rain across the lake.

There is an old steamship TSS Earnslaw. Built 1921 and ferrying people up and down this lake for 97 years. We did not ride but just watching it depart was stunning.

Here is a photo across the lake. Grey cloudy day. Then hole in clouds spotlights the opposite shore. I hope the photo does this Justice.

We don’t spend much time in Queensland as we are on our way to Glenorchy at the North end of the lake. From age 9 to 15 I lived in Olympia Washington. One of my buddies had a sister Kathy and her life found her living with husband John in Glenorchy. They have invited us to spend a few days in their home. About 450 people live in Glenorchy. So small town for real. One of the towns amenities is the campground that Kathy is involved with.


Now campgrounds kinda don’t do well anytime but summer. This one too. So there have been serial owners and serial failures to really make it work. The group is financing/organizing the campground and associated general store rebuild is making changes to expand their functional seasons beyond summer. They turned some of the land into hotel-ish housing. But different. They have a large solar panel array. Sewage is composted. Wastewater is handled on site and becomes irrigation for the landscaping. Building materials are recycled and/or locally sourced. Artists working on site drive the esthetics of design. The financial backers are putting all profits back into the Glenorchy community. Really impressive. This place is at high risk of serving as a model for beyond sustainable environmental and community development. Grand opening March 2018 and long may they run.

Apart from spending some delightful evenings with Kathy and John, we toured the Dart River valley.

This would be the setting for Isengard in the Lord of the Rings series. Beautiful countryside.

Nancy and I did a hike (a “Tramp” in local parlance) up to Sylvan lake. Trails very well maintained.

On our way we met a Bush Robin. Very curious little bird. Not so interested in our food, just inquisitive. Made us want to do more hiking.

But dirt roads are hard on the equipment. We ended up getting a flat tire. We put the micro spare (labeled “don’t drive on me very far!”) on and got back to Kathy and John’s.

It’s later on a Friday afternoon. We have some driving to do to get to other parts of the South island. Tire was destroyed. Need to be replaced. Nothing like that can happen in Glenorchy. And too late to get to Queenstown before things close for the weekend. And we need to travel did I mention? John suggests we call the car rental company and enquire about options. He does this for us and they say no problem. We will swap your van for another and look after the tire fix on Monday. They really made it possible for us to keep up with our previously scheduled stuff.

Kudos to the staff at Scotties rentals for taking care of us when things got complicated. 🙂 1/7/2018 We take our leave from Kathy and John. Brilliant hosts and fun to peek at the interesting projects they have become involved with in New Zealand.

It’s Sunday and we are headed for Te Anau. It’s a few hours drive through some great mountains. We find our hotel and scout the town so we know where to be the next morning. We will catch a bus and a guide will take us to Milford sound and on a few hikes on the way there and back.

After getting the lay of the land and dinner we return to our hotel to relax. We spot a couple in the hotel courtyard and join them. Chris and Elaine from UK. We enjoy a lovely evening as the sun sets. Sharing some wine, nice conversation and some guitar. The next day we head for the bus to Milford sound.

We are about to discover this Fjiording is wet work!

The guide has a lot to say about the area. The route passes through progressively more rainforest area. Lots of rain here on an annual reckoning. To include today off and on. But that is what fuels waterfalls after all.

We reach the tour boat dock. That and a parking lot. There is no town here.

There is a reason nearly everyone comes here by bus. And we get on the boat. Milford Sound is a fjord. Very deep with steep walls. Lots of waterfalls dumping the night’s rain into the sea. This place is alive with seals, penguins, dolphins, wow! And rain off and on.

More short hikes on the way back to Te Anau. Crazy New Zealand birds and more waterfalls.

We get back to town in time for dinner. Next day we pack up the van to travel further south.

On the way across the south end we saw evidence of chronic severe winter winds from Antarctica. Impressive!

The town of Bluff is the gateway to Stewart island. We check in to this funky art deco Foveau Hotel across from the ferry dock. Much of the waterfront is a hundred years old or more with lots of deco buildings. Interesting neighborhood flavor.

Ferry the next day to Stewart island. Not too many people. Tourism is probably their biggest industry but is far from over done. We did a short bus tour then did a hike across the island. Watched cormorants fishing. Met some crazy guy with no shoes on the beach that lives on his boat. Who would do such a thing!

Return ferry later that afternoon and it’s time for dinner at Bluff’s excellent Oyster Cove restaurant. We enjoyed breakfast at the Foveau with the owner. Interesting expatriot woman from the US. Hotel is for sale if you are in the market for one.

Driving back North to fly back to the boat via Auckland. We stay one night at Queenstown. Unpacking the van I note that my guitar is missing. Maybe I should not have leaned it up against the wall where it could hide behind the door… So I phoned the hotel owner and she mailed the guitar to us NZ Post at the marina. Problem solved.

In Queenstown we had a delicious dinner at Vknow. The sommelier was very informative and personable. Then airport again the next day and off for Auckland and back to the boat in the Bay of Islands. With my trusty box of boat parts. That sucker is well traveled. It flew from Seattle to Auckland. It rode the train Auckland to Wellington. The box began to fail so I had to reinforce it in Wellington. Then it flew to Queenstown. Traveled around the South island in a van. Then flew Queenstown to Auckland to Bay of Islands. And everything arrived intact. A miracle!

Fixing Odd Bits

11/15/2017 (continued)

Licking our wounds after our 8.5 day crossing of 1100 miles. Which is to say time to dig into my diesel leak. Nancy arrives tomorrow and need to get the boat in habitable shape.

The fuel tanks live under the bed in the aft stateroom. So tear that up. There are fittings on the top of the tanks that allow fuel to be extracted for the motor, moved from tank to tank, and fuel gauge. At least two leak. So seal them all I will!

As mentioned before these fittings were sealed with silicon caulk and fastened with wood screws. Polypropylene plastic is notoriously difficult for anything to stick to durably. Especially in the presence of diesel fuel. The wood screws stripping out of the poly are not helpful either.

Some research shows me that there are darn few sealants that might stand up to fuel/poly applications. But one is Permatex form-a-gasket #2. Which I can buy across the parking lot at the boat store. Did I mention that this is an awesome marina for getting things done?

In addition to changing sealants I will replace the wood screws with nuts and bolts so I can tighten things up for real without stripping out the poly. And nice rubber gaskets to boot.

During this process I have removed the fitting that carries the fuel dip tube. Remember the one that keeps getting clogged and killing my motor?

As you can see, this is not going to pass much fuel without a fight. I removed the offending screen. I have filters to take care of fuel contaminants. Without that screen in the way the filters will be allowed to do their job.

Sounds easy enough, it just takes all day. Then reassemble the bed.


Part of the organizing includes rebuilding the port settee. That’s Boat Speak for couch. I hit a rock back on Mexico which “rocked” the settee from it’s moorings you might say. And the repair required removing the settee completely. And after my subsequent reassembly I found I had a few spare fasteners. In retrospect I should have been more concerned about that. A fine Pacific crossing really does a number on things poorly anchored. Like my settee. No fasteners left behind on the reassembly this time.

After a crossing things in a boat are in a state of relative chaos. Now time to organize the debris. Frantically. Nancy arrives this afternoon! Aggghh!

Our friend John collects Nancy at KeriKeri airport while we clean up the last details. I even cleaned off the nav station. Well, Kat made me…

Nancy arrives to a clean boat. A miracle. She failed to comment on the miraculously clean nav station however…


We enjoy marina life for a couple weeks. Plenty of people we know. And people we should. Some nights musicians would have jam night in the cruiser’s lounge. Big Green Egg gets plenty of exercise. Found a shop nearby that sells proper charcoal and smoking chips! Yay! And a butcher. NZ takes their meat seriously.

We attended a Princess party at the Opua cruisers club. Free but you have to dress like a Princess. Men and women alike. Our friend Josh won for best costume. Deservedly.

We have been traveling with our friend John and his boat Danika off and on since Moorea. He’s here at Opua and bought a van. When he went back to Seattle he rented it to us. So we drove to Cape Reinga. The northernmost bit of NZ. Beautiful drive. But none of the road was strait. And I couldn’t see a geographical reason why. Having driven a bit on the North and South islands my conclusion is that kiwis don’t like strait roads. So they don’t make them! Clever lot.

We spent the night at an air B&B near Mangonui and the Kariakari peninsula. Beautiful area. Nice Dutch retired couple. He showed us his Daimler. Maybe 1955. The wood dash rotted out so he built a new one out of a piece of 40,000 year old Kauri wood. I’m not making this up. A forest was buried in ancient times in an earthquake. And sometimes they harvest bits of it. Crazy stuff. We took a side trip to Mangonui for famous fish and chips at a place where the seagulls bussed the tables. They work for chips…

99 mile beach was so large you could walk forever and feel like you haven’t gone anywhere. That’s Nancy out there in case you couldn’t tell. You can drive on the beach but where the road meets the beach the sand gets soft. And swallows up vehicles. These people caught me taking their photo so I was Shamed! into helping push them out.

Minor flashback. The last time I pushed a vehicle stuck in the sand it was our bus in Uganda and a hundred cape buffalo 🐃 were watching us. Warily…

As we get closer to cape Reinga we are low on fuel. And the neighborhood is low on population. So I’m following the signs to the last gas on the Road to Reinga. We get there and it’s an automated station. I chat with a couple motorcyclists as I wait my turn. Then I discover that my credit and debit cards don’t work. NZ and OZ cards only. Biker has an extra 4 liters and offers them as a gift. Nice guy! Then we figure out that it would be more productive to have him buy me a tank and I pay him cash. The people you meet at lands end.

On to the Cape! Particularly beautiful example of a lands end event. The Mauri were here before the Europeans arrived. Their legend has it that Cape Reinga was where the dead would depart the world and enter the underworld (the sea eh?)

Next up is return to the US. Christmas etc.


When you are doing something that you’d really rather not, your subconscious is your Ally in keeping you aware. My own has delayed my departure from Mexico twice when I really did not want to leave. Arriving at the airport without a passport (“forgotten” and still on the boat 😀). That worked twice. This time I “forgot” my USA phone. I mean it was about to become useful again back in the USA. And this time leaving things behind did not work. Our friend Kat attempted to return to the boat, pick up phone, and get it to the airport in time. She watched our plane take off. Valiant Effort Kat!

Mixed feelings about returning. NZ is lovely this time of year. Seattle… Well it’ll be nice to visit with friends. And drive my car. On the familiar side of the road even! We had rented our Tesla to some friends. And they gave it back to us for this visit. Thanks Art and Sharon! I forgot how fun that thing is to drive.

We stayed with our friend Willow’s for a week. That was fun. We got to drive her Jeep. For just a moment I was Sarah Conner (Terminator reference). Then Nancy’s mom Cathie. Nice to spend some time with her. Then friends Tom and Karen. Really nice to catch up with them. Looking forward to seeing them in Mexico in February.

Party time once at Willow’s and again later at Sally and Peter’s house. Great to see people. But you can never do it all. Trying was hard work!

There are boat parts to round up. Dr visits to take care of. Collect our mail. Lots of odd things. We got haircuts from Sylvia. She’s been cutting mine for decades. And I had not been trimmed since July in Moorea. Definitely due.

It was fun to be back at Overlake Eyecare again. Their remodel was done and looked great. Some staff changes but the new lot were very nice to work with. Nearly all my patients those four days were long timers. A few from 1993. Seems like a lifetime ago. I guess it was. And a good one at that.

Then Art and Sharon came by to Tom and Karen’s for dinner and to take the Tesla back home. I had it in for service a couple days ago which includes a pretty thorough cleaning. This way I could turn it back over to Art and Sharon as clean as when they gave it to me. I’m sneaky that way.

But now without wheels it’s time to go. RUN! Uber to airport at the crack of dawn on the 30th. Arrive Auckland the 31st at 1030pm. And New Zealand begins again!

Crossing from Fiji to NZ


Paid the marina bill and moved on to Customs/Immigration. Got a little interesting. We were leaving with different crew than we arrived with. Huub arrived with us and departed on another boat last week. We had not told them about this before our departure. They don’t want anyone staying behind unofficially, that’s the issue. I had to have Huub email me copies of his passport showing that he had cleared out of Fiji and into New Zealand on another boat. They weren’t happy but took care of us despite our running afoul of the Proper Path. They did give us time for lunch. Customs wants us gone in two hours. Nancy catches a cab to her hotel. She flies to meet us in New Zealand about midmonth.

We depart the marina with some help from our friend Tony Masters and the marina crew. Here’s Tony. He bears a striking resemblance to the proprieter of FijiMeats.

We don’t run down any lines in the marina this time. Yay! We motor out to the reef. Plan is to anchor and clean the bottom to make sure New Zealand welcomes us. They worry about invasive species.

We drop anchor and get to work. An hour of scrubbing later and we are nearly done. And there is weather coming. Time to quit the scrubbing and go aboard to close the windows. As we do that the weather arrives and includes a large wind shift. Now instead of being in the calm downwind of an island, we are in a rapidly building sea with an island downwind of us.

This is no good. We were going to depart tomorrow but better go now. The wind can work for us. Up anchor and off we sail through the night.


Need to be clear on something. Kat is building her boat resume. Needs to document a crossing as Captain, not just crew. Accordingly she is the Captain on this crossing. I am merely the crew/annoying boat owner. 🙂

We are sailing on to the South to exit Fiji zone. About 150 miles to international waters. Customs was quite clear on something. No stops after you are cleared out. Fine with us! We want to get going.

But then about noon Kat was napping in the salon. She happened to look up and noted more wiggle near the top of the mast than she would expect. I took a look and had to agree. Risk of metal fatigue on a 1000+ mile crossing. Conditions are quite boisterous. Winds 20-25 on a close reach.

Further study shows two diagonal stays between the upper and lower spreaders that seem loose. But to fix that we’d have to go up the mast to the top spreaders. Not going to happen in these conditions. We turn east and motor to the last available bit of Fiji. The beautiful Kadavu island.

We arrive just at sunset. Anchor down. Leftover pasta and sweet sleep. We did not get much sleep last night trading watches with just two people. Some concern… We are supposed to be gone. Hopefully the immigration man isn’t on our trail.


We get up and study the weather report. Seems like the routing program predicts more progress than we expect from Spill The Wine per day. Hmmm. Something to think about. Over breakfast of toast, eggs and coffee.

And by the way, asks Kat, why is there diesel in the bilge. Good question. But I’d rather think about the stay adjustment we came here for. Kat sends me up the mast and we get the suspect “intermediate stays” tightened up. They were barely hand tight.

There’s that out of the way. Let’s go! But sometimes I hear voices. This time it’s Kat asking “What about that diesel?” That darn Kat. What about it indeed. Really shouldn’t ignore that. This entails tearing the aft berth apart to access the diesel tanks. There are two. Nevermind the details of getting that done, when we get the tanks exposed it is quite clear what the problem is. Both tanks are leaking. Bummer. The good news is not much. The bad news is it’s enough to be a mess.

There are ports on top of the tanks for gauges, fuel removal and fuel transfer between tanks. They are sealed with something that looks like silicone RTV caulking. Maybe fuel eats the caulk. There are special caulks that diesel doesn’t eat. I don’t have any. Special gasket material exists as well. And no I don’t have any of that either. Maybe if I tighten up the screws… Hmmm. Some tighten, and some don’t. Stripped. Another possible diagnosis. But none of these things is getting done today. These are slow leaks. Some extra rags to soak up some drips will do the job until we get to New Zealand. Berth reassembled and we get to work chasing the diesel out of the bilge. We made a good dent.

On deck we set up the storm jib. Have not used this yet but we expect plenty of wind on our trip south so smaller jib will be a good idea. With that ready we realize there are better ways to enjoy Kadavu.

Maybe swimming in the last Fiji cove we will see for some time? And it will get the diesel off of us. Kadavu is another island that needs a return visit.

We sail a bit east along the south coast of Kadavu. Plan is to get a last detailed weather report off the cellular network. Find signal, get data. Looking spooky at the north bit of New Zealand in a week or so when Spill The Wine might arrive. Bummer. Will have to watch and see how that develops.

We say goodbye to Fiji. Set sail south for Minerva Reef about noon. This is on the way to New Zealand. Here is why we want to go.

That is not a bacterium. It is a reef hundreds of miles from anywhere.

New storm jib with a partially reefed main seems to work well in 20-25 kts of wind. 15 degrees of heel.

Man it’s been a long time since I did much upwind sailing. More heeling, Spill The Wine climbing the front of the waves and sometimes landing hard as she charges off the top of them. I forgot what it was like. Downwind sailing is how we got this far. Very different. More relaxed.

Kat naps from 3 to 6pm. Then I nap from 6 to 9. We adjust the sailplan a bit as the wind had built to 25-30 gusting to 35. Kat puts dinner together. We dine in the cockpit. It’s spicy and has potatoes and some relative of a mango whose name is strange to me and whose name is now quite gone from me. And it was dark. I couldn’t see a thing. But it was delicious.

My midnight watch begins. Mostly cloudy with intermittent rain. Wind is erratic in direction and strength. I experiment with the autopilot. It has a mode where instead of maintaining a heading, it maintains an angle to the wind. Maybe this is just the thing for these conditions. It was. Still tricky but performance is improved.

Moonless, so quite dark. For the best. Given this wind maybe I don’t want to be able to see the associated waves…

Soon the clouds yield to the stars. Welcome star buddies! Which one of you is “Lucky”? No reply. Stars have no sense of humor. Or I’m not funny…? Welcome Orion! And the Southern Cross! I get a little silly after midnight.

Moon is next. The major stars persist, but I lose the less brilliant ones. But I’ve gained a big moon to light up those scary waves. Hmm mixed blessing.

Another interesting development today. I am using a program to let me know what sort of weather we’re going to be dealing with over the next week or so. Naturally it’s less accurate the further out I look into the future. Then it tells me with so and so wind it will take you X number of days to get where we’re going. And it lets me know about storms and their associated high winds. Pretty handy. But unfortunately some of these predictions are based on the capabilities of my boat. We checked the website and sure enough, my boat details had not been dialed in correctly. Fixed that. So going forward we should get more accurate predictions.


We download more weather data via the satellite device. It takes 40 minutes. At a dollar a minute that is unfortunate and way longer than normal. I reboot and maybe it will work better another day. Also unfortunate for content. Big storm systems are predicted to cross northern NZ. And if our timing is wrong we might see 50 kts. Now I expect conditions like that might come in my sailing career, but I would certainly not seek them out. And I would work to avoid those 50 kts as well. So Minerva is out, sadly. A circular reef with no protection from wind. 40 kts predicted there. Our best choice is to make strait for NZ and see if we can get there before the low pressure system that creates all the wind arrives.

Sailing today was fantastic. If this keeps up that low won’t catch us. Smooth off the wind cruising. 6 kts plus all day and all night. We did steaks, ears of corn and veggies on the big green egg. Corn was unusual. More firm texture than I’m used to. More chewy. And a different flavor. A bit like popcorn maybe. But it still gets stuck in your teeth. Good stuff.

Kat takes 9 to 12, I’m captain midnight to whenever. With my friends the stars and the moon. I slept well during the day today as Spill The Wine’s motion was so much smoother. 800 miles to NZ. Low swell barely rocks the boat coming in just aft of the port beam.


Kat came back on at 5am. We are running the motor to top up the batteries. I got up at 8 and Kat has the spinnaker rigged. We run on that for 6 kts.

Wind dies at 2pm and motoring again. Grey skies and mildly lumpy seas. Water temp has dropped 10 degrees from Fiji. Air temp moderated too. Bikini weather is over. I don’t have a proper bikini body anyway. No photo for you! 320 miles from Vuda Point Marina and 750 to go. 6 days? Hope so. Watching weather at our destination in NZ closely.

Later in the day the wind quit. Diesel time. Then the rain began. That was 8 hrs ago. I think rainy season is here. But without any mosquitos!

Speaking of rain. The good news is my boat is no longer salty. The bad news is the cockpit is totally swamped. The canvas on my 10 year old dodger leaks a little. Ok it’s 10 years old. The two year old bimini cover leaks terribly. Hmm. Have to look into why that might be.

Excitement! The diesel quit. Same problem as a few months ago. Something in the tank blocking the fuel pickup tube. So fix opportunity. I need to remove the fuel pick up tube to reseal it because it leaks. So looks like I’ll be replacing it with a larger diameter tube. Strangely enough I want that tube to pass debris so the filters can do the filtering instead of the tube diameter. I blew out the blockage just like I have for similar episodes. Worked again. I napped all afternoon. Dinner was assorted leftovers. Bad night for a bbq.

What to do on a rainy night on Spill The Wine when the cockpit is swamped? I play some guitar and Kat some ukelele in the salon. Diesel playing rhythm in the background. Ok, the diesel is not so musical…

Now it’s my watch. 8 til one probably. No stars. No moon. Not much wind. Free fresh water and plenty of it as the rain carries on. That, is it’s own music.


The wind has been coming from the west since we left. This morning’s wind has clocked around to the NW. Not much of it, but we have hopes. Still pretty lumpy.

At 0830am the wind gets serious. We are now sailing nicely under partially reefed main and jib. The motor will enjoy it’s off watch.

I keep looking at the distance remaining and thinking we can arrive on so and so date. But I don’t think so. There appears to be a current against us. Maybe 2 kts. So we are pushing the boat for max speed through the water in hopes of making best possible speed over the ground. For example 5 kts boat through the water speed is 3.5 kts speed over the ground Water temp has dropped 18 degrees Since we left Fiji. Now 70. Humidity down. Temp moderate.

Kat thinks it’s a good night for pizza. She was right. Never argue with a woman that wants to make pizza.


Tonight Kat was on watch until 0100. Then she wakes me. Wind continues in upper teens. And we need that much to beat the counter current. I’m wearing full foul weather gear. To stay warm. It’s chilly in the wind. Tomorrow I might wear shoes.

As I settle into the cockpit the bioluminescence of the sea gets my attention. There is more of it tonight. There are as many stars in my bow wave as there are in the sky. Playing guitar in the dark is hard. But soon there will be about a half a moon if the sky stays clear.


Today it’s time to clean the bilge again. Kat tells me NZ will be inspecting the bilge and woe unto those that have diesel in their bilge. NZ will cast a spell on you and your whole family. Or something like that.

I did a work around that may help. I put a cork in a bilge space that should sequester any fuel leakage in that space before it gets broadcast to myriad other compartments. Making any clean up a lot easier. I’d rather only have one to clean. Anyway the tanks are no longer full. And the leaky bits were on top of the tanks. Hence they should leak a lot less or maybe not at all. I looked at the leakys this morning and one was dry and the other still weeping a bit. Could be we are done with this problem until the next fill up? Need to get it sealed up before then and that should be no problem.

It was a beautiful day. Cooler as we make southing. Water is down to 68 degrees. There was nice wind this morning. Kat and I discussed whether to take the wind on our starboard or on our port side. She mentioned that wind on the port side leans the boat to starboard. And the galley works better. That’s really all I needed to hear. It’s time for breakfast.

Wind goes away at 1030 this morning. So we motor all day. Oh well, good conditions for the afore mentioned bilge doings. No wind settles the sea. Wind waves are nearly gone. What is left is long swell. Imagine you are at a stadium and there are whales under the astroturf. And they are rolling towards you. And you get to sail up and over these rolling hills. Beautiful.

Tonight we have leftover pizza, coconut and popcorn. After dinner I was playing some guitar. Practicing a song that I once knew but that has gotten away from me. Next thing you know Kat is asleep on the couch. Am I that bad? Or does sailing make sleep easier? A PhD thesis in here somewhere… And we’d had such plans. Movie, popcorn, sigh.

Looks like I’m on first watch. No wind so still dieseling along. Guitar practice. Harder in the dark and no point in waking Kat. I put headphones on the electric guitar to keep the noise to myself. Add distortion, reverb, and delay. Very different sound than the backpacker acoustic guitar. And the sound is contained. The off watch needs sleep and my time will come.

I’m running out of electronic books. But I found some short stories by Bram Stoker from 1914. He is better known for his Dracula. This stuff should make for some sweet dreams. But no dreams of any sort are noticed.

Kat wakes at 0130 for her watch. She wants the previously promised popcorn! Works for me. Afterwards so does



I’m sleeping and just after dawn Kat knocks on my door to let me know she hooked a fish. “Chris! I’ve captured a fish!” And she was right. We hauled in maybe a 15 lbs Tuna or something similar anyway. Filet away and we won’t be doing vegeterian for the next day or two. Nice fishing! We are using a simple “handline”. It is tied to a cleat and has a bungie to absorb shock. Heavy nylon monofilament leads out to a cedar plug with a mean looking hook on it. We did not use bait. Probably not the most efficient rig but given enough time some damn fool of a fish is bound to bite. And we returned the favor.

We are absolutely smoking down the bounding main. Making 180 mile days. This is the best sailing Spill The wine has ever done. Outstanding for a big fat comfy boat like this one.

We expect to arrive tomorrow and I’m cleaning and recleaning the bilge. Don’t want NZ officials to find any diesel remnants there. It might not go well. And I’m happier with a clean bilge anyway. We have a big jug of fuel extracted from the bilge for shore disposal. Sea state continues manageable. A low is approaching from the West. But we are still ahead of it. Really glad we did not stop at Minerva reef. We would have been exposed with nowhere to hide. Expecting arrival tomorrow at the Bay of Islands.


Dawn shows us New Zealand on the horizon. Beautiful hills. Beautiful bay. Low mountains. Great wind. This is a dramatic landfall. But after a week or more any landfall will be dramatic!

I am flying the fabulous Rainier Yacht Club burgee as we enter the Bay of Islands. Probably the furthest south that burgee has ever flown. We have one last go at cleaning the bilge. Captain Kat pilots us in for our landing on the quarantine dock. Nice work Captain!

The Q dock is where you have to hang out until clearing in paperwork is taken care of. It’s isolated from land.

After a bit the biosecurity folks come along. They chase some of the suspect food items out of our pantry. Spam is a suspect item, who knew? We tried to eat all the forbidden stuff as we came down the track, so not too much to lose.

Next came immigration. That was simple and finally we park Spill the Wine in her new slip home at last.

Nobody ever looked in the bilge… But it’s clean by crackie!

Goodbye Fiji.


We met Kat as planned in Auckland airport 11/1 and then the three of us flew to Fiji. It is great to be back. Huub left the boat well put away. That was a big chore, thank you Huub! He sailed down to NZ in a different boat last week and that went well.

Team Spill the Wine spent the past few days getting ready to go. Boat chores day by day. Nancy and I dismantled and greased two of four winches. That was messy. Thanks Nancy! Today we send Kat up the mast to inspect the rig and modify slightly. Thanks Kat! We have a great team.


A view of a naked winch.


A fully greased and clothed winch…

Scheduled to clear the marina bill tomorrow. Then to customs to clear out. Then we have to leave the marina. We will sneak off and anchor a couple hours South of here. Kat and I will be scrubbing the hull. New Zealand has no tolerance for dirty boats coming into their country. They are working hard to avoid invasive species problems.

Our friend Tony is still here. He’s a good Australian sort. It would be good to cross him again down the road. And we might. He heads for NZ the day after we do. Kat and I and Tony did significant provisioning today in Lautoka. We hit the fresh market and two grocery stores.


The menu should be colorful as we head south.

Interestingly, there is lots of chicken, pork, lamb in the grocery. But little beef. That’s why we hit two grocers. The second one has a little bit of beef. I think Fiji us 90% Hindu. And they like cows. Sacred in fact. So eating them is frowned upon. Just like Nepal. But if you’re a water buffalo you are on the menu. You’d think this would be a popular place for cow tourists. Not seeing it tho…

Time to.mount the Solent Stay. This means a trip up the mast. Nancy cranks me up with the Milwaukee 28v Angle Drill of Power. Using the winch she just greased. It’s a pain going up mostly due to the fooling around factor getting ready. But it’s a bitchin’ view!

If you look closely you can see Nancy down in the cockpit. She runs the winch from there and we communicate with these clever headphone walkie talkie gizmos

This is a shorter forestay set up to carry a storm jib. Storm jib is pretty small. This means less powerful. In big wind you want less power. We’ll see if that proves necessary. We have been watching the weather. Predictions are mostly favorable. Maybe a day or two of headwinds. That happens. Situation norma

Rainy season is here. So we are getting rain for an hour or less daily. Mostly in the afternoon. That means the mosquitos are having a blast. And some of them are so small they are invisible. I will not miss them as we head south. But I must come back to Fiji. It is awesome.