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Day 912 - Gulf Harbour, NZ (S 36° 37 E 174° 47)
08:18hrs - November 27th 2009
Keep on Cruising

When cruising off the beaten path you're conditioned and fully prepared to spend hours, perhaps even a whole day, completing the most tedious of errands. Like perhaps just filling diesel tanks, ordinarily a simple enough goal, but in many South Pacific islands, for example, it can literally take all morning - hours of making multiple trips across a harbor in an inflatable dinghy juggling jerry cans. Finding specific spare parts, boat supplies or services can take weeks of research too - networking and footwork to find the person who just might be able to help you, a sort of Amazing Race in slow motion. So cruisers, by and large, move at a different pace than regular folk. We normally appear to be mulling around, perhaps looking almost like we're a little lost, or just really, really relaxed, clearly not in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything anytime soon. Running around efficiently, multitasking and being too goal oriented simply goes against our nature, or more accurately, achieves very little.

Initially this was particularly hard for us to adjust to. Having lived in New York for over 12 years we had become goal-oriented go-getters, living life at maximum RPM. This isn't a complaint mind you, we loved it. But the transition from that to this - now moving at barely idle speed and occasionally stalling, was initially a real shock to the system. But like New York, we adjusted to the cruising lifestyle, slowed down, and ultimately feel much happier and healthier for it.

But now, berthed in Gulf Harbor, just 15 miles as the ferry flies to Auckland - a major cosmopolitan city, we're surrounded by efficiency - resourceful and dedicated people who are literally waiting patiently at their desks to help. It's mind boggling what's available here and how easily things can be accomplished. Why in just the last three days we've bought a car, repaired sails, welded stainless steel stanchions, removed and repainted our mainsail traveler, had custom glass cut for all our port holes, received quotes for new canvas canopies, awnings, cushions, and covers, bought new tools, gaskets, filters, fuses, line and sailing hardware, and joined a health club - all in just 36 daylight hours - a years worth of accumulated projects completed in less than a week.

In my old life I would have felt most satisfied with such an impressive list of accomplishments, indeed, it is nice to get things done. But after cruising the South Pacific for a year, our total average speed being a mere 4 mph, I've discovered that I really like sauntering, living 'island time'. So my biggest challenge now, whilst we're in New Zealand, is ironically trying my very
hardest not to do too much.

Wish me luck.

 
 
 

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Day 907 - Gulf Harbour, NZ (S 36° 37 E 174° 47)
21:51hrs - November 23rd 2009
First Impressions

Sorry for the blog delay but I have been very distracted by all things New Zealand.  I have been busying myself with all the things I’ve been missing since we left the states like long long hot hot showers, playing laundry with big shiny clean washing machines, wandering around bright shops full of tempting things I don’t need and cant fit on the boat, and just walking the isles of huge supermarkets, oh the supermarkets, with entire departments dedicated entirely to cheese!, yes I have been having too much fun, and we haven’t even gone anywhere yet! 

When we sailed into New Zealand is was a little like coming back to the world we had left behind when we left the states in 2007.  With huge well equipped marinas full of all the familiar excesses and comforts of home, with friendly, reliable systems in place just waiting to help.  They definitely have all the common comforts of the USA here but still, but its uniquely New Zealand.  The people we have met have been an appealing mixture of English good manners, friendly Irish curiosity and old fashioned Scottish grit.  The coastal geography is beautiful, volcanic, desolate, green and spectacular and the weather, well they tell us it’s almost summer but its still pretty wet and chilly, but there are enthusiastic promises of swimsuit weather by Christmas

We are sailing our way south to Auckland at the moment, and soon we’ll be in another mega marina just outside the city so it looks like I will have even more distractions to keep me from all the boat work that Neville is so keen for us to get started on, oh yes, and did I tell you, they have Cadbury’s here too!!! Yippee!


 
 

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Day 898 - Opua, New Zealand (S 35° 18 E 174° 07)
13:31hrs - November 14th 2009
Haere Mai Ki Aotearoa - Welcome to New Zealand!

After consuming copious amounts of muffins, breads, cakes, peanuts and other potentially high-risk food products before arriving in New Zealand, you can imagine my disappointment when the Customs officer, after rummaging through our boat for an hour and a half, casually mentioned that all the items Catherine had insisted, and at times forced me to eat during our passage, were indeed "no worries", and allowed us keep the remaining muffin mixes we have onboard. Which, of course, traumatized by having to eat so many, I will never be able to look at again without gagging.

The westerly winds that we were promised, regrettably never arrived, so the last three days of our 978 nautical mile passage were spent tacking, charging, crashing, beating and motoring into chilly head winds. There is nothing quite so demoralizing or frustrating than pounding into cold seas all day only to watch your distance to waypoint steadily increase. But on Friday 13th at 6:20 PM, after 8 days at sea, exhausted but exuberant, we arrived at the Bay of Islands, Opua, in New Zealand!

We've been berthed in Opua Marina for two days and are still in shock. You see, after spending the last two years in third world countries, remote tropical atolls or uninhabited islands, New Zealand is, well, just a little overwhelming. It feels like we've been trekking through remote woods for the past two years and have just suddenly stepped out onto a busy main street. It's sensory overload. Supplies, food items, marine hardware and services that have been unavailable for so long now surround us. A chandlery just opposite our slip has every single item of hardware on my list of repairs and projects. Every boat service a yachty could dream of is within a stones throw away. Ferries whiz across the harbor regularly. The WiFi at the marina is a hundred times faster than we're used to. The showers are clean with hot water and lots of it. The laundry service is a large room filled with row after row of shinny, clean machines. There is a casual buzz of order and efficiency here that can only really be found at a first world country, something that we once took for granted, but now, at least for a little while I suspect, we are in awe of and feel privileged to experience.

We're still in disbelief that we actually sailed this far. New Zealand is literally on the other side of the world. We started in the northwestern hemisphere, we're now in the southeastern. We're 18 hours ahead of New York. It's summer here when it's winter back home. The sun sweeps across the sky to the north, not the south. We're at the same latitude as Cape Town on the very southern tip of Africa. Yes, we've come a long way.

On wednesday, after a gale blows through the region, Catherine and I will sail further south to Gulf Harbour Marina which lays just a few miles north of Auckland. We have lots of exploring to do, but as New Zealand is currently experiencing their coldest spring on record, we'll probably opt to spend the first month cruising in a car, with the heater on, and give Dream Time a few weeks of well deserved rest.


   
 

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Day 893 - Enroute to NZ (S 29° 28 E 175° 20)
12:10hrs - November 9th 2009
More Cake Anyone?

We're now sailing away from New Zealand, our distance to Auckland is steadily and depressingly increasing. No, we haven't changed our itinerary and opted for Australia instead, although we are on a perfect heading to make landfall in Brisbane, it's just that for the moment, another day at least, the wind is blowing steadily from the south-southwest, in precisely the direction we wish to head.

Ordinarily this would be a problem as we're still over 400 nautical miles from our destination and motoring that distance into 20 knot winds and 6-8' seas (yesterday it was blowing 30 knots), is out of the question. But New Zealand's weather guru, Bob McDavitt, provided us with a forecast and predicts west-southwest winds very soon. Normally I wouldn't dedicate a great deal of hope in a weather forecast, there are so many variables that literally everything can change, without notice, at any time. But ol' Bob is a legend in these parts and has earned a stellar reputation of being able to accurately predict the weather conditions for yachties most of the time. At least for us, over the past 5 days since we set sail from Minerva Reef, his predictions have been amazingly spot on - the wind speed, direction, barometric pressure, sea conditions and scheduled changes have matched his forecast line by line. So we'll continue to sail west for today, and most of tomorrow, relatively confident that soon we'll be able to tack south and head in the right direction, to the City of Sails.

With all this tacking around in the open ocean, however, we are adding another 200 miles to our passage. But seeing as Catherine is determined to bake all of our bread, muffin and cake mix that will almost certainly be confiscated (and I suspect consumed) by the New Zealand custom officials upon our arrival, we'll have three whole extra days at sea to finish off our restricted food items (as outlined in New Zealand's Biosecurity prohibited and restricted items information packet - section 205b - The illegal entry of dangerous muffin mixes) - More cake anyone?



 
 

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Day 888 - North MInerva Reef (S 23° 39 W 178° 54)
18:10hrs - November 4th 2009
How Many Cans of Tuna Are There in a 65lb Yellowfin?

If you draw a straight line between Tonga and New Zealand, and go along about 400 miles, you’ll find North Minerva Reef, a 2.5 mile wide sandy lagoon surrounded by a flat, mostly submerged, coral reef, and if you happen to have the weather gods with you, then you can make your way in through the pass and settle in for a day or two of Pacific lagoon loveliness. 

We were entirely ready for a straight through 1,200 mile sail to NZ, but in the end we couldn’t resist stopping at this lagoon in the middle of nowhere.  There is nothing here, no people, no buildings, no dry land even, just a flat coral reef enclosing a beautiful turquoise lagoon. Quite surreal to be anchored in what looks like open ocean except that you are well protected by reef all the way round.  Well worth stopping for, and to get a few extra solid nights sleep, ready for the next 800 miles is a big fat plus.

We are still eating Neville’s mega 65lb tuna for lunch and dinner these days, and it seems like it might never end, but it is so so good and we’ll be sad when it’s gone but it is messing up my planned provision consumption.  I’m trying to persuade Neville to eat more pasta, bread and cake to use up all our supplies, but we’re so full up with tuna that it’s hard to fit anything else in, oh what a lovely dilemma to have, too much cake and too much tuna, bliss! Although too much ice cream would be nice too!




 

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Day 885 - Enroute to N. MInerva (S 21° 16 W 177° 14)
12:12hrs - November 1st 2009
Good Sailing

It feels good to be sailing again. This is our third day at sea as we make our way southwest from Vava'u Tonga to Minerva Reef, which now lays only 173 nautical miles off our bow. Dream Time is making great sport of the 6-8 foot swell which roll gently in from the southeast, a reminder of the last frontal system that passed through here just a few days ago. The ocean is getting progressively colder. Now, at latitude 21 degrees, the furthest south Dream Time has ever sailed, the water is only 66 degrees Fahrenheit, a full 10 degree colder than when we left Tonga.

With all three sails flying high against the clear cobalt sky, we're dancing over the waves at a steady 6 knots, sending brilliant white spray cascading off our bow as we fall off each crest. Dream Time's motion is heavy, deliberate and comforting, almost as though we're sailing in slow motion. Below her bulkheads creak and groan in harmony with the ocean. I imagine that she must look a pretty sight from afar - a burst of white surrounded by deep blue, one with the ocean. Perhaps, if we had left Tonga with the cruising fleet, the 20+ boats also bound for New Zealand, we could have been captured on film, but we chose to leave on our own, opting rather to carve our own wake on this passage and having the ocean all to ourselves.

The passage has been good to us so far, delivering an average of 15 knot winds, gentle seas and a 65 lb yellow fin tuna which we landed yesterday after a 45 minute battle. It's the largest fish we've ever caught and will feed us, lunch and dinner, for the next six days. Yes, it's good to be back at sea.

 

The end of a dream: We published a blog exactly five months ago detailing the story of Sylvain, a Canadian sailor who, after surviving 56 days at sea in his rather fragile wooden ketch Inherit The Wind, and just barely making it to the Marquesas from Central America, was rescued a few weeks ago in the Cook Islands after his boat sank in the vicinity of Rarotonga. It's reported that both Sylvain and his dog Eddie were rescued by a Naval cutter and are OK. We'll give you an update when we find out more details. Click here to see photos and to read the story we posted about Sylvain on June 1st, 2009.