Return to Fiji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welding gets done, dive gear gets sorted out, other supplies acquired. Successful mission!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the proprietor wants in. Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vanua Levu’s Dolphins

We weigh Anchor at 0715 and begin our crossing. Miles of open water as far as the eye can see. But there is a deception at hand. All that water is not so deep as Spill The Wine. Most of it is 3 feet deep. Study the chart we did. Verified the chart with Google Earth yes we did.

We were anchored by my finger there at the bottom of this photo. You can see our planned path through the reefs. Plenty of them Mon! Following this route I get a vague view of the reefs only. The sun is rising on the bow. But we sneak out unscathed.

Nice south easterly coming up Vatu-I-Ra Channel on our beam at about 12 kts. We are motorsailing because we need to charge batteries and make fresh water. The sails stabilize our roll. Sea state is pretty smooth today.

About halfway across we meet a school of dolphins.

A dozen or so decide to play at our bow. Mind the anchor mates!

We enter the reef and anchor by Nabouwalu Jetty. The Ferry stops by here daily and freight carriers too. Which makes it maybe not the best place to anchor.

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EASY big fella! It was interesting watching the docking process. Ship approaches the jetty. Drops an anchor while still making forward progress. Then the anchor grabs and the ship pivots on it ending up stern to the jetty. Then they tie up and load/unload. On shore there is a small grocery and a post office. Its enough, we don’t need much yet. But we did buy a couple lobsters on the jetty one morning when the fishing boats came in.

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Nancy butter poaches them. And we had lobster rolls. Then we get moving. There is a nice cove up the coast a few miles. Looks good and our chart says “Anchorage”. We pull in and find the cove quite populated with buoys. Kinda weird. Oh well. We find room to anchor between the buoy pile and the reef. And it was a great reef. Lots of fish and tricky lobsters that we could not catch. There were some little squid off the swim step.

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These things are bizarre to watch. Regular fish only go forward. These things have a reverse as well. So they will swim along and then reverse direction for whatever reason and go back the way they came without turning their bodies. You might have seen these on a plate. At which point they are called calamari. There was also a crab trying to stow away.

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We are the only boat in this anchorage. Kinda nice! But then there are not a lot of boats like ours on this coast anyway. The next morning Kat and I go out to look at the reef some more and maybe catch one of those sneaky lobsters. A couple guys in a panga come along and explain to us that indeed, this is a pearl farm. Hence the many buoys. And the reef is closed to snorkeling. Not quite an “anchorage” after all. Darn that chart!

Ok. Lets go to Namena Island. It is also a marine preserve, no fishing. But snorkeling is allowed and so is anchoring.

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Cute little island surrounded by a reef. Waves wont be too big for our visit. We cruised by the Dive Resort on the island. In ruins. Cyclone Winston crushed this area a few years ago. The wind is coming from the SE so we anchor on the NW shore out of the wind. No fishing here so the reef is fairly healthy and there are a lot of fish. We spent a couple very nice days here. And strangely enough we had cell coverage here in the middle of nowhere. Which we used to watch the weather. And that proved to be a good idea. A low is passing through and our 10-15 knot SE wind is predicted to clock around to the North about midnight and crank up to 20 knots. The midnight part of this is the problem. All we would need to do would be to weigh anchor and re-anchor on the south side of the island. In the dark. Bummer.

Or we could leave today for Savusavu. Kind of a late start, but off we went. And as soon as we got out of the reef the seas were kinda big. Gusting to 30 knots. Definitely not the 10-15 knots predicted. We are towing the dinghy because, late start, did not want to take the time to deflate/stow it on deck. Good day for Nancy to use seasickness meds…

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We finally get behind the reef close to Savusavu about sundown. Seas get smooth and wind becomes much milder. I try to avoid night approaches to anchorages but today weather has forced our hand. As it turns out Savusavu is a pretty easy mooring field to get into in the dark. Narrow channel and mooring balls on both sides of the river. Streetlights make it not so dark.

Nice little town Savusavu. It is the largest town on Fiji’s second largest island and has a population of about 4500 people. We get some diesel, some groceries, and just relax for a few days. We met a guy from New York. He was formerly employed by Welch-Allyn. They make medical instruments. Many for the eyecare field. He introduced us to Linda, a local Rotarian. The two of them are working on getting some medical equipment together for the local hospital. Which could use an eye clinic among other things…

Soon it is time to move on. We visit the green grocer and head for Viani Bay further up the coast. Nice spot that has some good diving. There is a dive shop where Kat and I want to do a free diving class. Free diving is a three dollar word for snorkeling with more emphasis on spending time below the surface holding your breath.

Nice enough place that we spent a few days. Snorkeling and img_20180604_215429642_ll

drinking Kava on shore in the evenings with the Fijians. Our friends from La Cuz, Sky Blue Eyes, show up. Things got more musical.  img_20180604_134518410

The dive outfit had awesome dogs there that liked to fish in the shallows.

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The last night there were a few bugs.  Time to go.  Taviuni, the garden island is calling us from across the channel.

Moving on down a salty road.

April 30 2018. We departed Opua at 2pm. Crew is myself, Kat and her boyfriend Roddy, Brad Tower and Grant Nelson. Yesterday Brad and Kat went to town for provisions. Color matters.

One more trip up the mast. Inspect the cables that strengthen and center the mast. These cables and the mast are collectively spoken of as “the rig”. Brad and Grant took care of the hoisting.

Grant and I sailed out into the bay to put the watermaker back into service. And learned a lesson. Sea state rough and random. Just right for seasickness. And we got a taste.

We have departed Opua after clearing with customs. Today we are using scopolomine patchs to avoid illness. Which is working. We are definitely feeling better than yesterday.

The sea state is still rough and random. Wind 17 to 22 gusting to 25. The moon is full. 3 meter seas try to board us but Spill The Wine foils them. They roll harmlessly under the stern. Our course to Minerva reef puts the wind and swell on our port rear quarter. Sometimes a rather large wave hits our stern and pushes us around and off course. The automatic pilot recovers our course pretty quickly.

Sunrise is the appetizer, and sunset is the dessert of the day.

Kat is running the galley. The meals are fantastic. I’m betting her culinary skills were not picked up in her Yacht Master program.

The first day out the seas were rough. To avoid freaking out our stomacs Kat served an awesome pasta dinner. The next night we were feeling quite comfortable with the seas and took a chance on T bone steaks. Successful.

Today maybe the anti seasick drugs are wearing off. Some discomfort among crew. I hope they don’t mutiny! We did take another chance on a lamb roast. But it worked.

There was about an hour between sunset and moonrise. Oh My was that ever dark!

After moonrise we study the squalls that surround us. One’s bound to get us.

The little black boat looking thing is us. The purple bogey on the radar is the squall. Keep the foul weather gear handy mateys!

May 3. This morning conditions were right for a nice asymetric spinnaker run. Kat and I do foredeck and Brad controls the halyards and sheets. This goes very smoothly. Soon we are smoking down the bounding main at 9 kts.

Afterwards we get most of the crew into a photo. And we are facing the stern with beautiful spinnaker in the background. Brad hoots “Fish On!” And a nice mahimahi joins the crew of Spill the Wine.

Edible hitch hikers are the best!

Roddy is a very experienced fish dude. He identifies the fish and demos filleting on half of it. Kat did the other half. Lunch will be soon!

Great wind until the afternoon of May 1st. Time to do some motoring. In the early morning of the 3rd there is some rain. Dawn brings a fantastic sunrise. And some rain. And squalls on and off all day. Wind varying from 7 to 25 kts as the squalls come and go. Pretty typical for these latitudes.

May 4. We ramble on and the wind builds slowly. The seas build too. Now 4 meter swells are coming from behind. Some breaking but nothing but spray gets into the cockpit. And not much of that. We are making 6 to 8 kts on a storm jib and a bit of main.

My scopolomine patch is exhausted. Good thing. I was having vaguely conscious dreams. And when it was time for me to participate in any dialog I would catch myself doing it out loud. Kinda weird.

We cooked a chicken on the Big Green Egg last night. I was almost surprised it went so well. Boat was being tossed about in the large swell like it was a toy. STW was heeling to 25 degrees in gusts to 33 kts. And the vertical chicken stayed that way throughout. We rejoiced with tacos.

Still 250 miles to Minerva. But we make good speed in spite of the lumpy sea state. You might recall in a previous post I got hit in the eye by a flying fish that tried to jump over the cockpit back on the Pacific crossing. Brad joined the ranks of the “Fish Eye Brotherhood” last night. He says he needs reading glasses as a result but I’m not so sure that’s the cause. He has 45 other problems… 😉

I’m starting to be bothered by a low grade fever, 99.5, and some real headaches. Hmmm. Aspirin not much help. Ibuprophen and Tylenol similarly not helpful. Maybe I’m seasick? I get this so rarely that I don’t recognize the symptoms. I try some anti seasickness stuff and it seems to work. Must have been the perfect sea state to do me in.

Nevermind our crew. We have other stowaways.

Two little stowaways disguised as sparrows or some sort. Proverbial bird in hand!

They liked the interior of Spill the Wine.

One tried steering but the autopilot took it for a ride.

As you can see they are very shy. There are more than a few fearless birds in NZ. I have to assume that’s where these are from as we just left. After about a day they flew away. Hope they know what they are doing.

The sun has been down for a couple hours and the sky has been pretty clear. Great night for a starshow. Just now the moon rises. Welcome back my friend. We are 50 miles from Minerva reef. Strange reef kind of in the middle of nowhere. 300 miles from any land. So of course we want to go. Should arrive at dawn.

Kat and I had intended to see Minerva on our way down from Fiji last November. The weather turned on us and we needed to make for New Zealand with all due haste to avoid trouble. And did. But so far this crossing looks like we will be touring Minerva easily.

May 6. We arrive about 9am. The pass is 75 feet deep. No worries there! Some snorkeling. Napping. Then it’s dinner time.

Kat and Roddy go for a walk on the reef. It is walkable at low tide.

And they recruit three lobsters to join the crew of Spill the Wine!

Here is satellite photo because it’s hard to photo an atoll. It’s all underwater. Most remarkable is the absence of swell after you sail through the pass seen on the photo above at about 10:00. It’s about 3 miles across.

We depart about 1300 hrs on May 7th. Crew notes. Kat and Roddy are both quite experienced. Brad and Grant less so. This is their first time on an ocean crossing. And they are loving it. They may be ruined for life on land forever. They are starting to shop for boats.

Once I was an Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Details before Departing NZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last NZ Tour

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

It turned out to be a great idea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind us is the party tree from the movies.

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

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