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!