Thursday, January 28, 2016

Boeing 777 Are Fast Lift Bridge, Whangarei (photo
After the rude New Year’s Day awakening we had a good and windy sail back to the main land to the Whangarei River. We motored a couple hours up the river carefully missing the last opening of the Hatea lift bridge. The bridge stays closed from 4pm to 5:30pm for car traffic. We called the bridge tender at 3:45 and asked for an opening. He said sure, but he had to do an inspection first. He got back to us at 3:57 and said it was too late for an opening, so we tied up to the waiting dock and spun our wheels till 5:30. Then we headed to the small Riverside Marina and were greeted by a number of cruising friends to help us slide into our slip. Since then it has been whittling down the boat work list.
Go to home page - Air New Zealand.
We left NZ for the USA on Air New Zealand from Auckland to Houston. A top notch airline. Good seats, great service, free beer and wine. The great service came to a screeching halt when we hit Houston and needed to pick up our connecting domestic flight to Ft Lauderdale on United Airlines. First they announced a two hour weather delay. Then a half hour later they sheepishly announced that it really wasn’t a weather delay, it was a mechanical delay. Anyway our flight finally gets ready for boarding.
The boarding process has gotten absurd. There are something like a half dozen different boarding groups that they run in some magic order: Premier Platinum Members of the First Order, Partner Gold and Golden Elite, Eagle Scouts from Northern States, Active Duty Military directly involved in Seal Team 6, ……. Things would go a lot faster and smoother if they broke it down to two groups: Those that consider themselves special and entitled, and All others who paid for a seat.
We landed in Ft Lauderdale and did some marathon relative visiting. This included a fair bit of driving. The driving has inspired me to create a new app just for Florida drivers. It will be a Bluetooth enabled app that works with traffic lights. The second the traffic light turns green it will automatically honk the horns in the cars that are in the second and later rows. This will take the pressure off of those drivers and better coordinate the horns for higher volume and greater effect.
You can’t be in US now and not feel the vibe for the presidential primaries. Most of it is a pretty raw vibe, but none the less it is there. I could go on in great detail about our current politics, but then this wouldn’t be a cruising blog. I do have a preferred outcome for the primaries that I think would be really good for the country. Out of the primaries I’d like to see Rubio on the Republican side, Sanders on the Democrat side and Trump and Bloomberg as independents. This way for any one of them to win in the general election they’d have to run on platforms that the majority thought was right for the country, not on fairy tales that appeal to the party faithful.
Next up, visits to South Carolina, Georgia, Washington (Bellingham), and Southern California.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 In Like a Lion

This is the view through the dodger window we awoke to on New Years day. A large low moving down from the tropics moved over us as we lay at anchor in Great Barrier Island, about 50 miles NE of Auckland. The Met Service predicted 35 kts gusting to 50 kts. Right now there are hundreds of boats out at the island from the mainland. They call this the Silly Season, when all the punters are out for the extended summer holiday and Xmas break.
After we anchored this mating trio of power boats anchored behind us. About 6:30am the next morning we had some gust in the mid-40s. One hit us as the boat was already veered to the wind. I felt the boat not straighten out to the wind and a few seconds later the anchor alarm went off. We were one of the punters dragging our anchor. Unfortunately we were heading directly toward the  power boats astern of us. I subtly called for Chris to come up and then quickly got the engine started. Chris took the wheel as I went to tend the anchor. It took full engine revs just to get the bow to stay up during the heavy gusts. Eventually we had the anchor up and went looking for a place to re-anchor and some dry clothes to ward off the chill. On the way we saw one sailboat who had dragged his anchor and was stuck sideways on a long fish farm float. Another powerboat lay on the rocks directly under a cliff that was blocking the wind. There were at least 20 or 30 boats moving about trying to get to a decent place to re-anchor after having their evening anchor spot rudely dislodged. It took us an hour to find another bay that was shallow enough to anchor, protected enough to minimize some of the wind and not so crowded that we had to endanger some other boat by anchoring near by. It's still blowing hard and the Met Service says it will continue until tomorrow afternoon. The current bay we are in is only seeing gusts in the 30s, so it is an improvement. It is a much further out from the main area so there are not nearly as many boats to deal with. Welcome to 2016!!!
Great Barrier Island is a remarkable and pretty place when the storms aren’t hiding it from view.

The day before the storm we went ashore to look for rusty stuff. Unfortunately someone had carefully re-painted this old steam tractor with black paint. Me, I prefer rusty. The tractor was used to drag giant kauri logs from the tramlines to the pier for export. This was the largest lumber mill in New Zealand till they cut down the last kauri tree in the mid 1900s.
Across the small bay from the timber mill is the remains of the last whaling station in New Zealand. It closed in the early 1960s. Currently it looks more like a 60s hippie household with this beached ferry clearly being lived on.
Shell hunting isn’t great here, but we did find this large broken paper nautilus.

On the way over to Great Barrier we stopped on the Coromandal Penisula (so this blog is written in the backward travel order while we sit here listening the wind howl and the rain pelt).  This is Port Jackson at the very top of the penisular. Our guide book says it is gobsmacking. I believe this means an anchorage that has a nasty swell in it and gets non-stop gusts flying down its hills at high velocity.
So how gusty was it in Port Jackson? It flipped our dinghy during the night. Fortunately the engine and tank were safely on the main boat at the time.

One of the New Zealand Christmas trees, aka Pohutkawa tree. There’s a suspicious large bull carefully watching us take the picture to the right.

We stopped for the night at Rotoroa Island. It was the official drug and alcohol dry out place for Auckland run by the Salvation Army for over 100 years. It is now a park and museum. Above is the old school house.

The island has lot of these flightless Weka birds running around. They have managed to eradicate the rats and stotes from the island, leaving the birds free to nest. Although these Weka’s have been known to take out a rat or a stote and eat them.

The patients were court sentenced to the island for 6 months to 2 years to dry out. The staff stayed for extended periods too. Some never went home.

Christmas lamb being enjoyed on Pete and Miranda’s catamaran Tayrona.

The crew of Georgia hope you all have a great New Year –

and we hope that we have gotten our annual anchor dragging incident out of the way.

Paul and Chris