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Day 942 - Great Barrier Is. NZ (S 36° 06 E 175° 25)
19:47hrs - December 28th 2009
Christmas Cruising

It's Christmas in Auckland and if you own a boat, that can only mean one
thing - it's time to go sailing. So after a full month of being tied to a slip
and working on Dream Time projects, Catherine and I decided that we
also deserve a little time off.

On Christmas Eve we packed away our tools and, along with the 135,000 locals who also own pleasure boats, kicked off the dock lines and headed out to spend a few weeks exploring Hauraki Gulf. With hundreds of islands, coves and great sweeping bays framed with rolling hills blanketed with dense forests and patches of rich green grass dotted with hungry sheep, Hauraki Gulf is a beautifully scenic aquatic playground, with literally thousands of postcard anchorages to drop the hook, deserted beaches to explore and extinct volcanoes to hike. Our destination was New Zealand's fourth largest island, Aotea, or 'Great Barrier Island' (according to Captain Cook).

Just 50 miles from the city, Great Barrier is to Auckland what Martha's Vineyard is to New Yorkers and during the summer months this quiet, isolated island of only 1,000 free-spirited residents is temporarily invaded by over 12,000 energetic holiday makers. Unlike Martha's Vineyard, however, people don't come here to shop, watch polo matches and lounge around sipping expensive cocktails on the beach, no, Great Barrier is a wild, rugged and untamed place.

With no electricity supplied to the island, no 5-star restaurants and definitely no boutique shops, those who choose Great Barrier are a tougher, more robust breed of vacationer, preferring rather to camp, hike, bike, fish, dive, kayak, surf or sail away their free time. A typical day's agenda for these kiwis would be something like this: a rigorous 10-mile hike up a volcano before lunch, waterskiiing or surfing for a few hours before fishing for snapper in the afternoon, then a chilly early evening dive to grab a crayfish or two for the barbie. Outdoors is how these vacationers prefer to spend their free time, and it seems, compared to our home port of New York at least, they have a lot of it. The majority of Auckland's businesses shut down on Christmas Eve and don't even think about reopening until near the end of January.

Now, you might think that if the entire 'City of Sails' decided to go sailing, the waters around Auckland would be more congested than a cruiser after Christmas dinner, and we were warned of bays being so crowded with all manner of pleasure boats that you could practically walk across them, but so far Dream Time has had more than enough room to swing on her anchor.

Yesterday, for example, Catherine and I spent the morning strolling along Whangapoua Beach, a two-mile stretch of sand on Great Barrier's rugged eastern shoreline. We collected shells, climbed over giant sand dunes and ate a picnic lunch on a grassy hill under the shade of an old tree, and the best part, we had the entire beach completely to ourselves (but don't tell anyone where we are).

 

Dream Time: Engine oil change (2,046 hours). Welded and re-bedded aft stanchions. Installed two new 225amp-hour gel house batteries. Installed new DC/AC control panel. Fitted new glass in all portlights. Installed macerator pump in galley. Replaced galley drains and hoses. Removed and powder coated aluminum main traveler. Repaired genoa and main sail. Re-bedded pedestal frame. Lubricated steering cables. Tuned rig. Ordered new salon cushions, sun canopies, sail covers. Made portlight bug screens. Made new anchor snubbers.

 
 
 

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Day 936 - Gulf Harbour, NZ (S 36° 37 E 174° 47)
09:37hrs - December 22nd 2009
Merry Happy Jolly Festive Kiwi Christmas

Thank you so much for all your very kind get well messages following my shocking heat gun adventure. I’m happy to report that I am now doing much better, and with no residual side effects, but also somewhat disappointingly, with no x-ray vision either! or in fact any other cool super powers that seem to happen to other people on TV? I was certain there had to be something useful to be gained from getting that amount of electricity all at once, other than curly hair!  But maybe the real prize is a wake up call to remind me you don’t necessarily always get another day.  You don’t always get another chance to do the things that are important to you, or to say the things you really want to say. The only thing that seems to be guaranteed,
is this moment right now, so what do you want to do with it? Actually, that’s a pretty good side effect really, granted, it’s not as cool as x-ray vision, but I guess you can’t have everything. Oh, and I also need to remember that electricity is bigger than me, and it doesn’t give second chances!

Well it’s almost Christmas yippee Merry Happy Jolly Festive Kiwi Christmas, and being in New Zealand we have really been able to fully immerse ourselves in all the seasons’ merry festivities. There are lights and trees and Santa’s galore, and the shops are bursting with every kind of shiny festive Christmas accessory, and a lot of chocolate. I have made it my mission this year to bring as much of it back to the boat as I can,  much to Neville’s ever patient exasperation, so Dream Time is now very glittery and sparkly and full of chocolate Santa’s which I think is altogether a lovely thing.  I can’t wait to see how it all works when we actually sail out of here in a day or two for a Christmas expedition! Anyway must dash, I think its time to test another chocolate Santa!

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all xoxoxoxo





 

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Day 921 - Gulf Harbour, NZ (S 36° 37 E 174° 47)
08:18hrs - December 6th 2009
A Shocking Tale

Now we are in New Zealand and in a mega marina with every marina convenience we could wish for we are finally getting down to boat projects.  The boat is actually in very good shape, but there are still a few minor projects and some cosmetic details to attend to. Monday’s projects were going to be 1.) Removing stanchions - Neville, and 2.) Striping bright work - me.  It was a lovely sunny Monday and we were ready to work.  Neville had already started on the stanchions which meant removing the lifelines, and I, with my trusty heat gun and scraper in hand, was ready to diligently strip bright work and off we went.  I had worked my way across the front of the coach roof and was making my way down the starboard side when the shocking part of the tale began!

I was bent over the side of the boat when I lost my balance and started to fall backwards, but in what turned out to be the first of many things that didn’t go as planned that day, the lifelines were down, so there was nothing for me to grab hold of as I fell, and down I went.  There are a number of reasons why this would normally not have been a problem, imagine an entertaining wheeling arm tumble followed by a comedic splash, the only real injury being a slightly bruised ego, and a trip to the hardware store for a new heat gun.  But the unfortunate combination of an electric heat gun, main shore power and an uncommunicative transformer turned this normally harmless event into a disaster. Neville was working at the back of the boat when it happened and heard me fall and turned just in time to see me go into the water.  As he ran over to help, he was expecting a wet maybe bruised but otherwise all right wife in the water, but when he got to me he realized he actually had a much bigger problem, as he saw me in the water with the heat gun still firmly stuck in my hand, being electrocuted and screaming!  Ordinarily in an electrical emergency like this the main shore power would shut of in a millisecond but as our power was coming to the boat via the provided transformer the main shore power didn’t even recognize there was a problem and so kept feeding power to the boat and my heat gun.

But Neville was there (thank god), and being Neville, intrinsically heroic and fearless, without even blinking he grabbed me, hauled me out of the water onto the dock and knocked the heat gun out of my hand.  Just as all this was happening, another boat pulled in a few feet away, and amazingly for me, there were two emergency room nurses onboard.  When they heard the screaming they ran over and seeing what had happened they called for an ambulance and immediately went into emergency nurse mode.  They took wonderful care of me till the ambulance came, and then handed me over to the paramedics who hooked me up to all kinds of monitors and whisked me up to the North Shore Hospital in Auckland where after a day of tests and observation I was allowed to go home. 

Today’s Sunday, almost a week later, and I am slowly recovering. I am still stiff and sore and everything feels pretty exhausting, so I am sleeping too much and Neville is making endless cups of tea and keeping electrical appliances out of my reach.  It seems so ironic that we can cross the entire Pacific Ocean, negotiating reefs and atolls, always at the mercy of weather and sea, but quite alone and as far away from help as a person can be, yet here, tied up securely to a dock in New Zealand, I found myself in one of the most frightening situations I have ever been in! Perhaps its time to get back out to sea?
 
P.S. After this happened the marina implemented a new policy to no longer lease transformers to visiting yachts.