Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We got to Xmas day before most of you, being 1 day ahead of the US time zones. Time for some traditional New Zealand roast lamb for Christmas Day dinner celebrated with fellow yachties.
Our best wishes to you for a happy Christmas and a very very good New Year!
Paul & Chris

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Stop at the Whangamumu Whaling Station

Busy at work, dismembering whales, Whangamumu, circa 1930s

After visiting our friends in Whangaroa, we sailed south along the beautiful North Island coastline, passing the Hole-In-The-Wall near the south entrance to the Bay of Islands, where we originally arrived in NZ. Then onto the Whangamumu Harbour where there’s an old whaling station. This station was differnt than most as they used nets to snag the whales and drag them in to be turned into whale oil and various parts.  The system was good enough to get 10 or 20 whales a year starting in 1844.
My favorite part – the rusty stuff. This is whats left of the boiler used to heat steam for the rendering vats.

The staion was on this stream to supply clean water, although I bet the water downstream was pretty ugly during rendering activities.

You can just make out the sunk remains of the wharf in the water where the top picture on this blog was taken. That’s Georgia anchored in the background.

In 1910 the harpon armed ship Hananui was put into service, upping the annual whale kill considerably. Net whaling was abandoned. The station pretty much shutdown in the 1930s when the market price for whale oil cratered during the world wide depression. It was re-built and re-opend in the 1940s. The ship Niagra sunk nearby and left a crude oil slip in the area that caused the whales to avoid it and leading to it’s premenant closure.
When thinking about the good old days, think how nice it would be if we could go back to lighting our houses with whale oil instead of fossil fuelsSad smile. But if you like rusty stuff and a glimpse into history, the whaling station is definately worth a visit.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Deciding on a New Flag

This is my vote for a new New Zealand flag – it might show my Seattle bias. It turns out the country is in a bit of an uproar over actually changing the New Zealand flag.
Can you guess which one is the New Zealand flag and which is the Australian flag? Apparently the Prime Minister of NZ has been placed in front of the wrong flag at international meetings too many times. Public polls seem to say that the overwhelming number of Kiwis don’t want to change the flag – so in response, the government setup a flag competition and vote. The initial vote was just completed. It was to choose a new flag to go up against the existing flag.
nz_voting_paper_image This is what the ballot looked like. You had to rank the new flags in order of your preference.
ref_1_5_options_paper_correct_2 This was an apparently confusing proposition, so NZ Elections simplified it for the voters with this example. I really can’t see having a bad imitation of a broccoli as my country’s flag.
This is the flag that won the initial round of voting, now it needs to go up against the real NZ flag. Just in case you aren’t up to speed on Kiwi iconogrphy the symbol is a silver fern, not a bird feather.
If it wins we can go from hearing in the pubs after a night of drinking God Save the Queen to God Save the Silver Fern.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


We sailed the 35 miles or so north of the Bay of Islands to Whangaroa Bay to catch up with our friends Martin and Lexi. Lexi got a 6 month job as a GP working for the New Zealand health services. Pretty interesting to hear about how the nationalized health system works and about the mix of Maori and Euro-descent patients she sees at the clinic.
The picture above is looking out at the narrow entrance to Whangaroa Bay (pronounced just as it is spelled, except the WH is more like an F) with the Pacific Ocean in the background.
The picture was taken from the top of Duke’s Nose, shown here from below on the trail up.
Both Chris and I want you to note carefully the warning on this sign to the Duke’s Nose: This track requires a high degree of fitness. See, we aren’t dead yet.
whangaroaIMG_3542Here’s Chris negotiating the rock wall with handy chain attached.

It turns out that the whole trek was a waste and a rip off. I only did it so I could get this great photo of Georgia at anchor among the cliffs. Georgia is anchored in this picture. Right behind that big rock center picture. Argh!
Oysters are big business in NZ. This is an oyster farm located just up river from where we were anchored in the town of Whangaroa.
whangaroaIMG_3625Martin and Lexi live in government supplied housing about 10 minutes from the harbor in Whagaroa. There’s a large vegetable garden behind their place that is there’s for the picking. Here’s Martin rescuing a marauding bird from the net over the strawberry patch. This should keep him busy till he gets a real job.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A New Stack Pack

Roger, head of the North Sails loft in Opua (, was very kind in offering Chris the use of the loft floor and a sewing machine to build a new mainsail cover, aka ‘stackpack’, for Georgia.  She’s been intrigued by sail lofts and has now had the chance to sew in one.
The guys at Opua North Sail are a great bunch of guys who really know cruising sails (and racing sails even better) and care a lot about preventive maintenance. We took all our sails in for some TLC and re-sewing and after Richard, working while between ocean races at the loft, spent two whole days sewing on them. They are now ready for another few ocean miles. All at a very reasonable price.  Richard is off in a few weeks to Bermuda to be a sail maker for the Japanese America Cup entry.
boiIMG_3471_thumb1 While we were out at anchor in Opua we would dinghy by this Moore 24 everyday. This is Gannet, sailed from California by the famous, or infamous, Webb Chiles. Webb is a bit on the eccentric side. Long ago he became the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn. He has circumnavigated something like 5 times, once on an open boat. He’s in his mid-70s now and doing another circumnavigation on this small, fast and very low-to-the-water boat. He’s quipped that he is doing this circumnavigation so that he has done one for each marriage he’s had. (His web site is: In the Present Sea)
boiIMG_3475_thumb1 Webb’s isn’t the only small boat that has crossed oceans here in Opua. This is Mongo, a Cal 2-27 owned by Ronnie Simpson. He was seriously injured in combat while in Iraq and has a done a lot of offshore sailing as a sort of therapy (His web site and story is at: Open Blue Horizon)
Don’t bring your bottle opener to New Zealand. The Kiwis are far more advanced in bottle opening technology.
In a tribute to Blame the Victim this sign says Car theft occurs when you encourage it. Similar to the old saying Guns don’t kill people, people who encourage bullets do.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bay of Islands

Before we headed out into the Bay of Islands to do a little touring by boat, we did a little north island driving in the are the locals unimaginatively call Northland. Now New Zealand is a small country. The land area is a little larger than the state of Oregon. The population is about 2/3rds of the population of Washington state. Even though the country is relatively small, they claim some big trees. This is giant kauri tree that is named Tane Mahuta – in Maori it means ‘Lord of the Forest’. You can get a feel for the size once you realize that the white and red dots at the bottom of the photo are people looking up at the tree. Its only about 168 feet tall, but the girth, the distance around if you were all holding hands, is about 45 feet.
kauriIMG_3298  We, of course, had to stop at a local pub for lunch after a morning of tree hunting. The bar decorations added to the ambience.  They do a lot of wild pig hunting here.
nzpig If you want to know more about pig hunting in NZ, then you really should subscribe to New Zealand Pig Hunter magazine, its all the rage:
boiIMG_3314 We finally picked up anchor and headed to the small town of Russell in the Bay of Islands. This was the center of decadence during the days of whaling ships. It was more known for its brothels than its churches but I figured our conservative reader of this blog would much prefer to see a picture of the first church in New Zealand. The grave yard had a lot of dead captains and crew along with a few graves of Maori chiefs who worked on the side of the Brits during the wars of the 1800s.
boiIMG_3335  If you’ve hiked around the San Juan Islands in Washington or the Gulf islands of Vancouver you’d think this is the same place. Lots of well maintained trails on the islands that are part of the park system.
boiIMG_3352 The native fern trees shade the trails nicely.
This is a stoat trap. These little weasel-like critters were introduced into New Zealand in an attempt to manage the introduced rabbits. Problem is that they just love the eggs of the NZ ground birds, such as the flightless kiwis. You can see a brown egg in the trap here used as bait. Many of the islands in the Bay of Islands have had their non-indigenous 4 legged creatures eradicated and have had the flightless birds reintroduced. Originally, the only mammals in NZ were bats- hence the evolution of the flightless birds here.
 stoat A stoat posing for a Wikipedia article.
New Zealanders are sailors if they are nothing else. This is the 85 foot R. Tucker Thompson bringing tourists out for a ride on the bay.
boiIMG_3372 We climbed a small hillside trail so I could go check out the World War II era rusty stuff. This was a protected observation post for viewing the bay entrance.
boiIMG_3368 More Pacific Northwest scenery- in New Zealand.
A mom and baby cormorant, or as they are called here, a pied shag.
A variable oyster catcher. I had go look up what an oyster catcher eats: “Variable oystercatchers eat a wide range of littoral invertebrates, including mollusks, crustaceans, and annelids”.
boiIMG_8314 We got together with some other boatie Yanks to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was really hard to decide when to have T-day. Should we do it on the traditional Thursday, or wait till Friday our time so it would be Thursday in the states? We compromised and did it on Saturday. Our hosts were Nancie and Art on Second Wind. Martin and Lexi on Pau Hana and Pete and Miranda on Tayrona joined us in the potluck feast. We stuffed ourselves, in the best Thanksgiving tradition, and then walked it off in the old town of Russell, finishing with a beer at the little local yacht club, the Russell Boating Club with a bunch of locals.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pastoral & Industrial Association Show

‘Pastoral & Industrial Association Show’ is a pretty high end sounding name for what we would call an old-fashioned County Fair. They hold them throughout the country this time of year (Spring). The highlight of our visit was getting to watch the working dogs bully the sheep around. Smart dogs – dumb sheep.
OpuaIMG_3281  This guy filled us in on the NZ working dogs and all the sheep dog trials that are coming up over the next few months while his dog waits patiently to go back to work and deal with those evil sheep.
OpuaIMG_3263 With all the rules you have to deal with in NZ some just might call it a nanny state. We had to have our boat AC wiring inspected by a licensed contractor before we could hook up (plug in to shore power) at the marina. This inspection is good for 4 years. We also had to have our extension cord to the dock separately inspected. This one is only good for 1 year.  The weirdest rule is making all the children under 12 walk around in these plastic bubbles so they won’t get hurt.
OpuaIMG_3290 And then there was the safety bull riding with carefully padded paddock floor.
OpuaIMG_3294The fair included judging local baking, flower and crafts entries. I was a little disappointed by the judging for the arts and crafts section. This masterpiece of potato sculpting only got an honorable mention. I couldn’t believe it it didn’t walk away with first.
OpuaIMG_3296 This is still spring down here. The weather changes every few days. You can see the change of weather clouds signaling the next days of wind and rain here.
We finally got off the dock at Opua after buying a new Tohatsu 9.8 two-stroke outboard for the dinghy. Our previous Tohatsu lasted about 14 years and multiple dunkings in salt water (not recommended by the manufacturer). We are carefully doing the 10-hour break-in now. Our sails are all at the sail loft getting some well deserved tender-loving repair and re-stitching. We plan to motor around the Bay of Islands (in NE New Zealand) to visit a few of the anchorages here until our sails come back and then we’ll likely head out to explore a little more of the coast.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Passage to NZ Notes

ToNZIMG_3195 This is all you see when you approach North Minerva Reef on a calm day. Minerva Reef, North and South, are atolls that sit in the middle of nowhere, 250 nautical miles from Tonga. In the ‘good old days’ of sextant based navigation the prudent thing to do was to avoid these reefs by many miles. Today, with GPS navigation, they make a nice place to stop to rest up and wait for a good weather window to continue southward on the passage to New Zealand. Plus, it’s so cool to drop your anchor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a spec of land around you!
In a straight-line from Tonga to Opua, NZ, it is a little over 1,000 miles. We managed to actually sail about 1,398 miles to get there. This includes the stop in North Minerva and then traveling west to about 28*30S 173*14E before travelling south. You travel west for a few reasons – mainly to deal with the SW winds you are likely to encounter as you approach the north cape of NZ and also to try and take any of the fronts which blow up the Tasman Sea from the Southern Ocean north of 28-30* latitude where they should have less punch.
Many of the boats that were on passage with us used land based weather routers. We got our weather by downloading GRIB files via our SSB radio, which show predicted wind and seas over the next few days, and by listening to Gulf Harbour Radio out of NZ. Some of the boats were routed very far west – almost close enough so they could wave at Australia. This added a lot of miles to their route and a lot of extra motoring. It was supposed to make the frontal passages less strong. In practice they got the same thing we did – 25-28kts sustained with 33 gusts on the nose – for 24 hours.  We ended up turning toward NZ as soon as the wind moved a smidgen past south toward the west. This turned out to be a lucky call and we had a good sail into Opua for the last 3 days. It wasn’t lucky like you just won the lottery, it was more lucky like you are driving in a strange part of town looking for an address and you come to an intersection, rather than asking for directions, something intuitive says turn here. In a block and half of driving the address you want shows up – it’s a guy thing.
Our trip to NZ:
10 days from Tonga to Opua including 1-1/2 days in N. Minerva Reef,
1.5 days of motoring,
about 12 hours sailing on a nice reach, all the rest of the time close hauled and beating into it.
ToNZIMG_3211 On the one calm day, we stopped for some swimming in 13,000 feet deep water as a break from our 24 hour motor torture. This is crew Bill and Anne, enjoying the cool water.
ToNZIMG_3236 A pleasant greeting from two Kiwi porpoises showing us the way to customs. This was after the NZ Air Force P3 Orion flew over to check out who we were.
 ToNZIMG_3255 Georgia sitting at the quarantine dock in the morning after tying up at midnight. First onboard was NZ Biosecurity. They managed to go through every locker and confiscate a large trash bag of our frozen food, salami, honey plus some items in the freezer that even we couldn’t identify. Most important, Chris got to keep all her shells.