Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Auckland, Big City Visit


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sitting Out a Non-Political Storm


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.


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.


One of the 9 inch gun bases with connecting tunnels.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


“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.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Great Barrier Island


We spent a week or so at Great Barrier Island. GB is in the upper right corner of the picture, with the city of Auckland about 40 miles away in the lower left. The area in between is the Haurki Gulf. Between dealing with the weather and the fact that it is the “silly season”, we didn’t see as much as we’d like of GB. The silly season is the summer holiday time. Kids are off school and almost every Aucklander takes their boat out on the water.


We did get in some good hikes (tramps in Kiwi talk). Here’s Chris hacking through one of the less used trails.

The winds picked up hard from the southwest so we decided to head to the back side of Great Barrier, aka east side. Great Barrier isn’t built up much, with the east side being even less built up. There were undoubtedly more people on the island when it was a major Kauri tree lumber site. The Kauri’s were used for shipping building and ship masts. The combination of heavy logging and Kauri Dieback Disease pretty much decimated the forestry.


Here we are tucked into Harotaonga Bay. It looks mellow, but in reality it is blowing hard by the small island in the center.


The beach is long and flat here. It’s really nice to have wheels on the dinghy to haul it out of the tidal range.


The beach was pretty lonely place to walk, just us and the birds


There are trails that lead past the sand dunes into Shaun the Sheep country. And stiles to get over the fences.


This is the DOC campground, a quarter mile in from the beach. DOC in the US is Department of Corrections. In Kiwi land it is Department of Conservation.


This spot was notable because as it is the first time we’ve seen hermit crabs in New Zealand. There’s a group of them living in small, efficient homes in this tide pool. All through the South Pacific the widespread hermit crabs have first right of refusal to all the collecting shells.


Caution Electric Fence sign to alert the sheep


These sheep asked us if it was still possible for kiwis to get visas for the US.


An Oyster Catcher among the grasses on the sand dunes teaching her young chic how to look for tasty snacks.


After a late afternoon hike we got back to the dinghy in this upside-down state. The wind was strong enough to get under the dinghy and flip it, engine and all.


We decided to head into the Haruki Gulf after some time on GBI, partly because of an expected NE gale coming. The plan is to come back out to Great Barrier after the kids go back to school and the bays empty out a bit.

(Pretty good, huh! Made it through almost an entire post without political commentary)