Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It’s Fall (or is it Spring?)

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Yea, I know it’s been a long time since any serious blogging has been accomplished on this side. So I thought I’d start out with a graceful picture of yours-truly enjoying an early fall SUP (Standup Paddleboard) in the Bay of Islands, NZ.

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The thing I like about SUPing is lets me get a good audience for bad humor.

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We enjoyed some great hikes while crusing NZ this season. A Maori grave yard over-looking the Bay of Islands…

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…with Georgia parked all by herself under the cliffs.

March was the end of our New Zealand cruising for the season. We headed back south to Hatea River and Whangarei and got a slew of boat projects done at Riverside Drive Marina. Then it was off for a quick trip to the US of A. First stop was a long weekend at Chris’ Mom’s in Carlsbad (CA), with celebration of a big six-oh while there.

Then we headed up to Bellingham for a very important grandkid fix.

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We hit the Skagit Valley at the peak of the Tulip season. Tulip production started here in the early 1900’s funded by the US Dept. of Agriculture with 15,000 bulbs imported from Holland – government subsidies at work. This pic is of the angel queen of the Tulip Festival – Queen Quinn of Ferndale.

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Quinn is complaining to gramps here about having to look at flowers when there is great rusty stuff just behind them – an old tulip planter.

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A color coordinated trio if I ever saw one!

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Teaching the young to violate the no flower or petal picking policies.

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Besides tiptoeing through the tulips while we were in Bellingham we caught up on some medical appointments. Updating your Advanced Medical Directives is a good thing occasionally. Some of the questions on the form were new to me, like the one above: In the event that you stop breathing or your heart stops beating and Donald Trump is President, would you want us to resuscitate you? This cartoon was sent to me from an anonymous medical officer off one of the Pacific cruising boats.

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After a long flight from Vancouver to Auckland on Air New Zealand (really good airline), we are now getting ready to make our passage from New Zealand to Fiji. Here I am removing all the unneeded  packaging from my tea bags, while this might seem like reducing the footprint in the islands we go to, I like to think of it more as increasing our footprint while we are in a marina.

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Now you might have figured I’d end this blog with some gratuitous pictures of our above average grandkid – but no, just some more flower pictures. 

Paul

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Auckland, Big City Visit

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We decided to head into downtown Auckland for some city visit time. We anchored just across from the downtown, or as the Kiwis call it the CBD (Central Business District). We anchored outside the main channel at Bayswater, Waitamata Harbour (36*49.7S, 174* 45.7E). Took the dinghy into Basywater Marina and then jumped on the 10 minute ferry to the CBD.

First stop was to get some documents copied that we needed notarized. This entailed heading to the US Consulate in Auckland with the documents in hand. We took the elevator up and it opened into a security area. After a polite search, Xray and magnetometer scan we were buzzed in through the security doors into the inner waiting area. This area has about 8 bank teller like windows with bullet proof glass. It is long and narrow, with enough width to handle four chairs across and an aisle. After we dropped off our papers we took a seat in this waiting area. The funny part was that at each end of the room were large TV screens. On the one in front of us was what seemed like a US travel video playing without sound. There were numerous pictures of women in religious headdress. On the screen at the other end the TV was playing what looked a like causal speech by Hillary Clinton. I was wondering if this consulate has not gotten the memo from the White House yet. A $100 later we had our documents notarized.

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Then we headed off to the Art Museum to see the Maori portrait exhibit. Most of the art was by Gottfried Lindauer. This Chieftainess has the Maori lip tattoos that were common on women. Men tended to have entire face tattoos. The exhibit is definitely worth a visit.

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We spent the following overcast day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum at the Auckland Domain. I just can’t give very many stars to this museum. The lighting and the placement of the identification plaques appeared like the people who created them never stood in front of them. To compensate for the low-light of the museum we stopped on the Viaduct by the water and had cider and green-lipped mussels. A hit.

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Waitamata Harbour (the actual name of Auckland’s harbour, or harbor) gets busy every summer evening with sailboat races and yachties going out. They seemed to like passing close by us where we were anchored.

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Kiwis are world renown for their sailing skills. They are hardcore sailors if nothing else. This is one of the older America Cup vessels that offer tourist rides from the Viaduct Marina. This hour glass in the spinnaker as they tried to raise it in a stiff breeze was not their finest hour.

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After three days of the big city we headed out to Great Barrier Island on a windless day. These dolphins rushed to greet us as we passed between the island and the outer rocks.

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A little playing on the bow wave and then they were off.

 

Paul

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sitting Out a Non-Political Storm

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This summer here in New Zealand has been unusually cool and windy so far. There has been day after day of high SW winds. To make up for it, they scheduled a NE storm. We left Great Barrier Island on a light E wind and sailed to eastern end of Waiheke Island where we could get some good storm protection. Waiheke is a busy tourist island world renown for its vineyards. It is an easy ferry ride over from Auckland. The forecast was for 35kts NE winds gusting 45kts. We were in one of these blows last year while in Gt. Barrier. In that case there were probably 200 boats anchored in the two coves where we were. By morning at least 30 of them had dragged anchor. We wanted to avoid that experience this time, so we chose to anchor under the cliffs at Waiti Bay – see the star on the chart above. By nightfall we were the only sailboat in there with a 3 other smaller powerboats anchored closer in. The Met Service had changed the forecast to NNE 45kts gusting to 55kts. That some serious wind. We had a ton of chain laid out and knew our Spade anchor was well dug into the mud-shell bottom. It turned out to be a pretty mild evening behind the cliffs with the max winds in the low 30s for us. In the end no drama.

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Morning came and the winds shifted more to the west, so we picked up anchor and motored a mile and half west to Man O’ War Bay. Somehow I forgot to get a picture of this, but on the way in we noticed a barge anchored just off the north shore. It was a trash barge. It had a few dozen green garbage bins on it for trash and recycle. You jump in your dinghy and drop off the stuff that has been building up on the boat for weeks. Nice.

We headed into the shore to do some hiking. With Chris’ new, titanium hip she’s back to dragging me on death marches. It was an hour and half of hiking on mostly road to the World War II gun battery that overlooks the Hauraki Gulf. It is called Stony Batter; I have no idea why it is not called Stony Battery.

WaihekeIMG_6332 During construction it was a top-secret site. They hand dug hundreds of yards of tunnels to store ammunition and to have secure locations to calculate gunnery targets.

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One of the 9 inch gun bases with connecting tunnels.

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A couple of replica shells on top of a tunnel ventilation shaft. The 9.2inch guns could fire over 31,000 yards (30 km) with a max rate of fire of one round per minute.

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I know I complain about being dragged on these long hikes, but it always easy to motivate me if we are going to see old rusty stuff. This 1956 Harlan Engineering Ltd. generator built in Alloa, Scotland was worth the walk – even it was resting on a regulation Katrina tarp.

The Stony Batter took an excessive amount of effort in a remote location to build. Keeping the construction secret made it even tougher. It didn’t do much to protect the US fleet in the Haruki Gulf from the Japanese, as it wasn’t completed till after the war with the only test firing of the guns taking place in 1951.

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After the three hours of hiking we stopped into the Man O’ War winery tasting room conveniently located just up the beach from where we landed the dinghy. After sobering up there was some boat work to do. This is the high-pressure pump for our Village Marine watermaker. It was past do for a rebuild/service after giving good service over the past 2000 hours use. 

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We moved over to the main anchorage on Waiheke, Oneroa. This is the main town and tourist destination. There are some nice hikes along the headlands that lead out of the bay.

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The trails took us through the University of Auckland experimental vineyard. This is Chardonnay Clone 6 here. We saw some bright red and green NZ parrots enjoying the pre-wine grapes here, but they were not in a photographic mood.

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Turns out other governments build walls too. This one was built by the Auckland Council to ensure the headland trail was passable. I don’t believe they tried to get the Australians to pay for it.

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“Paint the Walls Grey and the Mind Will Follow”

Painted on a cargo container in the Univ of Auckland vineyard. Now I know I said I would follow the US Coast Guard regulations of only one political blog per month on cruising blogs, but I think if I read the story correctly online Trump signed excutive orders that ordered the government to loosen up on these types of regulations. I have not read the detail of the EO yet, but I do hope they back off a little.

Both Chris and I are covered by ACA compliant health insurance policies (Obamacare for those that aren’t sure the two are connected). They have reduced our medical insurance costs significantly compared to the policies we had prior to the ACA. I’m really glad to hear that the Trumplican replacement for ACA will cover everyone.

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Paul