We’ll we’ve somehow settled into this fine area here in the Bay of Islands New Zealand.It’s a nice & relaxing place with lush green surroundings; the hills are full of tropical fern trees that tower to amazing heights, pine trees of various kinds including the beautiful Christmas tree types that inspire the soul.The first month here was spent with a flurry of major boat work, the 2cd month was spent catching our breath after our long passage here from Tonga & Minnerva Reef & the brutal boat work.We took hikes all around the various places nearby & spent some time enjoying the anchorages around the Bay of Islands.The spear fishing here is excellent with plenty of well fed fish that seem to read your mind when they sense you can’t get a good shot when they are head on to you so they turn & present a great side on profile for an easy shot.
We attended the Tall Ships regatta out of Russell & sailed on our friend Glen’s boat Vinsang in the Classic boat division; a classic plastic boat with an old world wood look & a huge tiller instead of the ‘new fangled’ steering wheel.We ‘raced’ around the course thru the Bay of Islands passing numerous other boats & was in hot pursuit of sailing legions Lind & Larry Parday.The Parday’s have written numerous books on cruising in the simple fashion of no motor, no electricity or indoor plumbing; seriously hard core cruisers that have recently written a book on their travels up wind & against the trade winds & the ‘wrong way’ around Cape Horn.I met Lin & Larry back in our home port of Ventura while I was out test driving our new dingy, I stopped to chat & found them to be delightfully nice down to earth folks.It was exciting to be in hot pursuit of these legions on the race course & just when we felt we would be over taking them as we rounded the offshore bouy & headed down wind in light airs they deployed a huge hank on sail & soon were out of sight.We caught up with then later at the huge cook out & they remember me, how cool.
The cook out was a fascinating event featuring a Maori type of cooking called the ‘hungi’ where a huge pit is dug, a huge fire of various hard woods & the wood from the tea tree is set ablaze with rocks set on top.After hours of blazing fire the rocks are red hot & food, wrapped in aluminum foil is place on the rocks, covered with palm leaves then buried under dirt.Many hours later the feast was unveiled to serve nearly 1000 hungry sailors & crew.
We spent some time in the touristy town of Pahia where I found the biking trails that lead up into the mountains to be spectacular.There we found a great hike thru the most amazing forest jungle full of every type towering tree ferns, tea trees, & many types of pine trees.Halfway through the hike the trail crosses a wooden bridge over the wide river & takes you across a wide swomp full of mangroves on a nicely made wooden walkway just over the shallow water to get a close up view of the mangroves water area.After a good one & a half hike you get to the Haruru water falls, a mini sort of ‘Niagra’ falls like water fall that falls over 30 feet to the river below.It looked like a great place to jump off the step vertical cliffs into the deep water below but there were signs that strictly forbid this temptation.After a bit of rest watching the magnificent a young local man boldly dove into the waters above the falls, I thought that was a bit daring but thought it would be even more daring if he rode the flow over the edge.Of course when he got near the edge he stood up & gazed over the falls; apparently not about to go over.But then in a moment he just jumped! We noticed on the way in a trail that led to the water but this was at least a 10 minute hike back to the top of the falls, astonishingly just a few minutes after the jump, the jumper was back at the edge ready to take another plunge.After this jump he appeared again & this time a few more of his buds joined in & they found a higher cliff to leap from.By this time I had get a closer look & found that they were scaling the vertical cliffs right at the water’s edge to get back to the top so fast.The crew of daredevils then went to the edge of a side cliff which was about 60 up from the water below.They had to sprint about 30 yards to get enough speed to leap far enough out to clear the rocks below.The first one made it look simple enough but the others took a bit more time to get their nerve up but they all made it & went on to other daring places to jump.This was quite inspiring as I made plans to come back & make the jump myself at a later time.
2-13-10It’s been about two months since we first hiked up the falls, later kayaked there & hiked with Robin after taking the dingy halfway in; lot’s of fun & … oh yea, we jumped in.Robin has no fear & leaped off the edge, what a daredevil!The hard part seemed to be the climb back up the vertical cliff.Soon Robin has encouraged me to jump in.Now I’m recalling when I had kayaked up to the falls at low tide, the rocks & ledge at the bottom are exposed at low tide so that there really isn’t a safe landing unless one really jumps out a bit farther :-OSo I pear over the edge & then take a huge leap of faith that I won’t land on the jagged rocks below & splash down with delight.Now the hard part…getting back up.Rob again made it looks so easy, it still looked like death on a stick…well he still had amuch easier time of it than I.It took a while but soon I was back up.I’d have jumped in a bunch, but the climb back up was indeed the scary part.
Our cruiser friend Glen from Vin Sang got to borrow a car from a cool local so we all took a couple of road trips.First we spent a day driving up north thru the kauri forests & out to ‘90’ miles beach where the Tasman Sea crashes ruthlessly on a very long beach.The forests where the mighty kauri trees live a beautiful with all the lush sub tropical plant life, huge tree ferns…We took a couple of hikes to see these mammoth trees; the first hike was very well laid out with a board walk of magnificent construction.We saw all manner of cool forest stuff, but no kauri trees.Finally, at the end of the trail there laid out in perfect splendor was a mighty kauri tree stump at least 30 feet across, but still no tree, it was just the tree stump.All that pomp & …what ever, it’s on the tourist maps, there are street signs, parking & the magnificent board walk pathway just to see a tree stump :-OWell the next hike was even nicer, more of the cool foresty stuff, babbling brooks & even a few real live kauri trees.After the long hike we were back on the roads which twist & turn thru the very green scenery, at times banking quite steeply which allows one to drive fair fast:-OAfter reaching the peak of the mountains we pulled over for a quick break & saw in the distance ’90 miles beach’, stretching out farther than the eye can see, even from this mountain peak. Soon we drove down to the beach.
There we walked on the vast sandy beach which stretched out much farther than the eye can see.The sand stretched over 100 yards gradually slopping to the sea & still it gradually gained depth so one could walk out quite far & still be knee deep.There lots of shell fish to be seen, with some beach goers gathering them in buckets for dinner.The odd thing there is the huge tour busses that drive the length of the beach loaded with tourists.They’ve got a long way to travel & probably a shot time to get there & back so these busses are really hauling ass down the beach traveling at way over the posted 100km/hr speed.But the sand is way wider than the 10 lane highways back home in LA & hard packed sand along the water.The amusing part comes when these behemoth vehicles make their dash from the hard packed sand thru the very deep & soft dry sand & back up to the road out.After doing a few donut circles they stomp on the gas to gain as much speed as they can before bouncing & romping thru the soft sand, hitting a few bumps & getting a bit stuck in the sand before romping on down the road.Some busses really toss their mass of riders around pretty comically, while some of the busses get stuck a bit long in the sand but they all made it out somehow.
A couple of days later we drove down to Auckland, the big city to buy things we haven’t seen in third world ‘big cities’ much less most of the other places we’ve been for over two years.We bought a new camera to replace the one that got smashed by a rude wave between Bora Bora & Suwarrow many months before. We bought a new music stand to replace rusty old flimsy one that we’ve had to tape together.We shopped around for a sound system & many other things we’ve been needing including shoes…Robin found a bananza with a few more cool video games & fun things.We got to stay over night on our cruiser friends boat, Thin Wolf; they we all off the boat, spread out between New Zealand to the Pacific North West where Luke is, Mike’s out in the states somewhere else.We miss those cool folks & hope to see them again.
We went back to the boat with our car load of lute but a couple of days later we took advantage of the car & drove down to Whangerei, Robin needed new $100+ bearings & wheels for his brand new two week old $$ skate board:-OWe found that all of the places where we could play our music do not have their own sound system so in order to play these gigs & be heard we’d have to buy the last componet to complete our sound system.We all ready have mics, stands, cords & even speakers, all we need is a mixer with a built in power amp.We found a Yamaha 8 channel unit, built in a rugged space aged polymer (plastic) chassis.It has served us well in the number gigs we’ve had since.
Since getting the mixer we’ve played at the Opua Cruising Club, the Russell boat club, the Russell Garden Party & a few gigs at the Marina Café in Opua.We’ve got about a gig a week here in Opua until we leave in early May.About a month ago we took a sail trip up north about 30 something miles to enjoy the CavalliIslands & the Whangaroa area.The Cavallies had some great kayaking, snorkeling, beach romping & hiking.Robin & had water gun fights every day.The Whangaroa area is very cool in that you have to sail into a fairly narrow entrance but the area opens up to a large water range with many coves & anchorages.The cliffs rise vertically right off the water in a lot of places, kind of fiord like.The cliffs & rocky peaks have very interesting formations.We found a nice secluded cove/bay near a small river inlet which we kayaked to the end of navigable waters then hiked in for another two hours.We had lots of fun & relaxation for about a week then sailed back to Russell to mail in our visa extensions, start the construction of our hard dodger & play a gig at the Marina Café in Opua.
We’ve been working every day from sunup to sundown on the hard dodger.It’s a massive project consuming every last bit of energy every day with long marathon work dayz but we are getting some progress.We have very lucky to have the help of our cruiser friend Ted from D dock.Back home in Ventura we had the help of our special dear friend Keith; we called him the ‘Mayor the D dock’ & everyone in the marina would come to the ‘Mayor’ for boat advice & help.Here in the Opua Marina, on D dock we’ve found ‘ the Duke of D dock’.He has really made this project really work with extensive boat building experience & tools that he graciously lent me as so many of my tools have died a long salty death such as a drill, a circular saw, saws all, 5” & 6” random orbital sander & charger.Ted has lent be all of these plus a router which has been a great time saving tool.Ted has enlightened us with construction tips that has saved us lot time & much effort, he showed us how to create the roof by joining two sheets of ply to get a bigger ply sheet than the normal 4x8 foot, we fiber glassed to pieces together, then fiberglass the whole roof section.We did the whole roof while under a big tent at the boat yard, the whole process took just a few days even though it rained most every day, we still got work done in the big tent.Since then we’ve created all of the window panes with plywood & epoxy.We made all the window panels, created the window support doublers, tediously cutting shaping & epoxy gluing them all together.Tomorrow we’ll glass the panels onto the deck & soon we’ll leave the pricy work dock & go back out to anchorage & finish this massive project in another month.
4-04-10Wow, it’s been a whirl wind tour of hard dodger building, we pulled out of the work dock over a week ago.While at the dock we managed to fiberglass all of the window panels to the boat & even most of the roof.When the structure was solid we left the work dock & have been achored out ever since.We had to trim the panels for extact fit, then fiberglass them in place.By this time we had noticed most hard dodgers have some sort of hand holds, so we came up with a design that we liked & soon had it fiber glassed in place.Then came grinding, course sanding, hand sanding, stick sanding, upside down sanding, inside out & backwards sanding… this is just to remove the first round of rough spots & those tiny fiber glass spikes that often find their broken way under our skin :-OPainful & itchy :-O
At this point we smeared a layer of fairing epoxy mix & sanded most of it off, as one does when making a big mess with fiber glass & we still have a lot of hand sanding to go.We got the window areas sanded, faired, sanded & another coat of epoxy to keep it all water proof.With the window areas ready we prepared all of the window template pieces that were cut out from the panels, this took a day of grinding , very course orbital sanding, very course paper on a stick, on a board, on a file, heck we to used a file or two too!
We now have to get some price estimates from a place an hour away that works with both glass & acrylic & compare the price with a place 2 hours away, determine how dark is ‘light grey’ & get our window patterns to ‘em & wait…that’s the fun part, but no there’s still a ton of sanding in many painful ways :-O
We had a gig at the Marina Café on Sat the 3rd so we planned not to do any sanding that day to give our hands a break to play music all night, also some kid boat cruisers we met in Mexico came to visit us at our boat which gave us another reason to put away all the tools & really clean the growing piles of dust, saw dust, sanding dust, grinding dust, fiber glass dust; we were way over due :-O.We met them when they were beginning their year & a half Mexico cruise & we were nearing the end of ours; when we made our pacific puddle jump they were on to cruise many of the places we had been & to talk about all these places brings those memories back like an almost forgotten dream.The Dad got a job out here in Auckland & have just rented a nice house in a quite area near the big city.Their kids made quite an impression on Robin back in Mexico & they have kept in contact over the internet. they managed to arrange to have Robin over for a week or two, so Robin is stoked not to do school for a while & hang out in a real house with some very fun kids.Last year while anchoring their catamaran near us they often deployed a huge water floaty toy that was among other things a platform to jump & slide from; Rob had a blast… & he’s having a blast with his friends down in the big city.When he comes back we should have hard dodger just about done.
We have less than 6 weeks before we make the big jump out of New Zealand, there are countless things to do before we leave but the hard dodger dominates our days.The days are getting shorter, there’s quite a nip in the air at times, right now it’s raining very hard; can’t wait until the windows are in :-OThe hard dodger will really come in handy on this passage out of here as it’s getting rainier & chillier, plus Nz is starting it’s fall time storms, which builds into it’s harsh winter storms of which we’d like to be well out of their way when we sail out of here.
5-11-10We finally finished the hard dodger!The storms that blow thru here lately are relentless, no sooner than one frontal system blows thru at least one or more are stampeding our way.We returned to the service dock to off loaded 3 months worth of construction crap & washed away a ton of fiberglass dust, epoxy dust, filler dust, glue dust, plywood dust, paint dust, metal dust, silicone dust & most of all Dust dust :-OWe have re bedded all of the new dodger windows plus the 5 deck port lights that have been leaking for the last year.While I was at it re sealed the front & rear hatches; the two middles ones won’t see any water under the new dodger.I also fixed the leak under the aft companion way hatch.I’ve changed the oil in the main motor, the dingy & the Honda generator.Changed the motor coolant.Re packed the entire front storage cabin.Removed all the chain & vac’d out all the Opua mud in the anchor locker.Flushed & filled the two main water tanks.
We played our last gig at the Marina Café without having to take two trips with our dingy.Opua is a cute little town, so little it doesn’t even have an ATM bank machine but it has one great café that a very classy gal named Antoinette.She’s such an artsy person, you can see her cool style in the details of her café’s design,her cloths are like a water color painting along with her groovie necklaces that complete the picture of an artsy dream come true cartoon.Even the toasters at her bed & breakfast are just sooo cool;-)Her husband Jessy is very hard working guy, he works stays at the university in Auckland Monday thru Thursday, then he’s back to work the café on his days off.They’re hardest working folks in the café biz & they’ve been great to us with their hospitality & a great venue for our music gigs.They let us use their car twice for provision runs to the ‘big town’ an hour away.
Once we were back at anchor with full water tanks we discovered that the main water tank tastes like salt water.It turned out that when we filled the main tank to over flowing the fresh water forces it’s way into the front head which is fresh water flushing.The weird thing is that once the bowl got over full the sea water got siphoned back into the main water tank :-OSo I just installed a fresh water shut off valve.We never use this head anyway so now it’s off line.
We’ve had almost a week of stormy weather, it should calm down a bit in two more days but the following day two low fronts are moving in together for a real fun time.We still have about a week of prep to go before we are really ready to go, a lot of cruisers here have been ready to go for a month now & they’re getting pretty antsy to go.There is also a large group of cruisers that didn’t spend any time working on their boats yet since they’ve been having lots of fun touring both islands & spending months camping out & hiking the incredible sites of the south island; which is what we should have done so we may just have to come back at the end of the season to visit the south island.New Zealand as a country has a small town vibe going for it & the south island, they say, has some of the most awesome natural beauty areas in the world…looks like we’ll have to come back for a look see.
At this point we are getting the picture that Australia has better opportunities to make more money with our music which we could do until Robin goes off to college, then perhaps we can move to the top of the south island to semi retire & play our music; if you can immigrate to Australia they let you live in New Zealand also.Since we have spent maybe only two weeks sailing around this area in the Bay of Islands, Cavalli Island & Whanagroa, the rest of the time it seems we’ve been working on the boat & spending lots of money in the process we are thinking about coming back next November & spending our time at the top of the south island.While there we might buy a used camper van to go camping, hiking & maybe biking around the south island.Bobbie & I would be very curious to see how the place feels for a sort of semi retirement, where we’d earn a living with our music & set some roots; Bobbie would love to someday have a house with a fireplace, I’d love to have a Jacuzzi & we both would like to live in a small town kind of place.Who knows what we will feel like doing or going after we’ll have spent around 5 years in Australia, perhaps we’ll sell the boat after awhile or maybe we’ll want to sail away after being land locked for 5 years…
So for now we’ll sail back to Tonga, this time we’ll check into the south group of Nuka Lofa, Tonga’s administration island; last year we sailed into the northern most island of Niuatoputapu (New Potatoes) which was hit by that devastating tsunami the day after we sailed on to Vavau’ Tonga.After a few days of rest in the busy town of Nuka Lofa we’ll sail about 70 miles north to the Ha-Api group which does not get many tourists & the life style there is the normal Tonga island villages, living like they have for many centuries (except for the warring & cannibalism).Ha-Api has it’s raw south pacific beauty but with the cost of watching out for very dangerous reefs through out the entire group of over 70 anchorages, this seems to keep a large amount of cruisers from visiting this group.Also to make the dangerous reefs more of a challenge, the charts of the area are said to be off by up to a half a mile which is at this point a seemingly unnecessary danger for these ‘modern times’ of using faulty charts in a time where anyone can visit Google earth for a picture perfect view.But do to lawyers, liabilities & world wide government bureaucracies we have to navigate with charts drawn up during Captain Bligh’s charting days over 150 years ago & since the ship was disgruntled enough to have a mutiny, the crew may not have been putting their best effort in the charting process :-O
After a couple of weeks of relaxing & getting our cruiser groove on in the Ha-Api group we’ll then sail about 70 miles north to Vavau’ where we have lots of music gigs waiting for us.We hope to earn at least the cost of living while we are there to make up for the tons on money we spent while working on the boat here in New Zealand.If it’s fun & profitable enough we’ll stay for 3 to 4 months before sailing to Tonga for two months; with any luck perhaps we’ll find more fun & profitable places to play there before sailing back to New Zealand in November.