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Leaving NZ?

Another forecast. Another decision. Our general plan of leaving NZ is simply to get out of Dodge when we can, make some distance north and east then take each day as it comes. Even if we have to sit there for a day or two. As long as it’s safe to do so.

So here’s today’s local forecast.

Squall warning. Waves may rise rapidly during squalls. Friday: Northeast 20 knots rising to 25 knots gusting 35 knots this morning. Changing northwest 20 knots this afternoon, then easing to 15 knots this evening and to 10 knots tonight. Squalls of 45 knots possible until evening. Moderate sea becoming rough for a time this morning, then becoming slight this evening. Poor visibility in rain, with some heavy and thundery falls until evening.

If we were out at sea and had no choice and this came down on us we could deal with it.  We wouldn’t like it but we’ve done it before.  Does it make sense to leave land with this happening?  Easy answer.  No.  In all good conscience I cannot set sail into possibly dangerous weather while we are close to shore.

So we probably won’t leave today.  We’ve got to let this one pass.  We had planned to fuel up and check out early morning.  I will at least delay this until we get a longer read on today’s weather but as I said, chances are we won’t leave today.

Looking out to tomorrow it’s not looking so good either.  The low pressure system to our SW is now projected to come a little further north than yesterday’s forecasts were suggesting.  This puts a more northerly component into the winds we can expect over the next couple of days.  We would have to sail extremely close to the wind to make some decent northing.  Yesterday the seas were flat.  We know this from the folks who motored up from anchorages on the coast.  I don’t mind sailing close hauled on flat seas but not those kicked up by squally weather.  So, if tomorrow’s winds remain just west of north (as they are currently predicted to be) tomorrow won’t look good either.

But this is all on a hair trigger which is this low to the SW.  If it stays a little further to the south that is all we need to kick us up northwards.  So now it’s a waiting game.

That was the weather.  Now the news.  I’ll summarize.

Customs were notified of our probable departure today.  Paul arrived.  We borrowed a car from Phil and drove to Opua for lunch and fresh food collection.  In the evening we went ashore for dinner at the yacht club.  A few more of the puddle jumpers have arrived.  Two new comers to Opua were Callisto and Boree.  Nice to see them.  Everyone was talking about the weather of course and possible plans for leaving.  There were many opinions and all were good to listen to.  Also there were Imagine, Passages, Paleides, True Companions, Blue Penguin, Avante, Curious and many others.  I totally violated my no drinking night before passage rule.  It doesn’t seem to have mattered.

 

Whangarei – first visit

We had a good Sunday evening as we had curry with company. This time it was Steve from Curious along with his climbing companion, Terrier (sic). They had planned a helicopter drop off in the South Island but had to abandon this due to an infection Steve picked up before he sailed down from Fiji and developed nastily on the way down. He ended up over a week in hospital and is still on crutches.

Today we drove down to Whangarei. Before heading down I dropped into Catermarine to learn that out charger had arrived. It was too big to lug to Whangarei and back so we left it there.

In Whangarei we first filled our propane tanks. Most places here won’t fill without having tanks first certified and then won’t touch fiberglass tanks. This place filled both ours without question.

Next I visited a couple of stores that might have stocked the float switch I need to fix the broken one in our shower drain. The first place was out of stock and the second didn’t carry them. At least we know the first place will have them some time so we’ll go back sometime.

Next was the the Post Office and the Insurance office to sort out paperwork on the car which went by without too many hitches (ie my leaving my driving license in the PO).

Next we met up with the Sea Misters for lunch at the wharf. Due to mistakes made by the server we ended up with an extra pizza and some free drinks. Not bad. And it tasted great so we’ll be back one day.

In the afternoon we shopped for a bunch of stuff including walking boots, sleeping bags, sheets, pillows and other stuff (I think some of this was in the morning but I’m losing track already).

We didn’t get back to Opua until after Catermarine closed so we were unable to pick up our charger. That will have to wait until the morning.

The drive there an back was a lot of fun. New Zealand countryside continues to inspire. The only downer was the possibility I was caught on a police radar in a tricky spot where signage was particularly unclear. I’ve heard tickets are mailed so it will be a while before I know if we were tagged. I may even have been under the limit but have no idea.

Pape’ete, Tahiti – first day in

Tahiti at this time of year is very much a geographical and temporal convergence for cruising sailors. Geographically, Tahiti is a stopover for almost every boat crossing the Pacific as there is nothing for thousands of miles north or south. Timewise there is the Puddle Jump rendezvous which is attracting a lot of boats. As a result, we’re seeing many of our friends that we’ve met along the way. Most boats are at the free anchorage (100 boats we hear) past the airport. We’ve opted to pay for the town quay where there are currently 20-30 boats. Amongst them are Imagine, Curious, Inspiration Lady, Callisto, Anthem, Whoosh. Last night InnForAPenny II arrived.

Our first chore ashore was to walk to the Port Captain’s office and pay for our berth. We had tied up to a vacant slot in the finger quays. It turned out this slot was reserved for a day charter cat and we had to move to a semi-circular area nearby next to a park. We were charged the same despite reduced facilities and no security. As a result we did at least get a guard overnight. Later John and I went out to visit the tourist office and pick up ice creams. Not had a Mr Whippy in months (behave yourselves).

Next our Code Zero arrived delivered by Laurent from Pacific Yacht Services. He had to dash but he did leave us with a map showing us where we could get propane. We obtained instructions on how to dinghy to the propane station so John and I dinghied across the harbour, tied to a fishing dock, crawled through a hole in a fence and went over to the propane place. It was closed. We had to return in the morning.

After some more internetting we went out. First stop was the supermarket where we picked up some beer and cheese as well as researching prices. We dropped the supplies off back on the boat and headed down the road to where we heard we could pick up cheap Chinese food served from outdoor vendors in the park. There we bumped into Mike and Anne from Callisto with their daughter. Anne and the daughter had just arrived that day to join the boat for the trip to NZ. We ended up eating together and agreeing to drinks tonight.

By the end of the dinner we were pooped so it was back to Dignity for a cool beer and rest.

This morning was more parts ordering and chasing a misdelivered package as well as Skyping family. I’ve been back to the propane place and had two tanks filled. That’s a relief. A new problem is that a cash card from the Uk seems lost in the post or delayed. This is fixable but could cause a problem soon.

Anyway. Today we’ll be exploring the town some more probably looking into a lot of hardware stores to look for things we may need for the journey ahead.

Rio Cacique

Helen and I started the day with a swim around the rocks at low water. The visibility was terrible so this didn’t last long and if there were battalions of lobsters all waiting there, I certainly could not see them. At times, I couldn’t even see the end of my spear gun.

We decided to sail south with a couple of options in mind. We passed by a reef which is listed as a good dive site. The water did not appear much clearer so we push on to the anchorage at the mouth of the Rio Cacique. Along the way the genset coughed twice. I’d cleared water (without seeing much) from the filters recently so chances are the filters were dirty.

Arriving at the anchorage we saw three other boats – a crowd by recent standards. One of them turned out to be Curious. Their dinghy wasn’t aboard so chances were they were exploring the river. We had lunch and a read before setting off up the river ourselves. The rivers on this side respond to the tides so we had a gentle current pushing us upstream. It didn’t take too long before we ran into Steve and Trish with their three new crew coming down stream. We stopped engines and rafter up for a quick chat. We invited them over in the evening only to learn that this was their only stop in Las Perlas before heading out later in the afternoon to the Galapagos islands. John noticed one of their crew had a similar camera to his Nikon camera (the one he took the time lapse movie of our canal transit) for which he doesn’t have a battery charger. Turned out they were compatible and she had a charger aboard Curious. She agreed to charge up John’s batteries so we about turned and headed back to Dignity to get things together leaving the river trip until today. Just before leaving I’d downloaded a seven day GRIB file (wind data) covering Panama, Costa Rica out to the Galapagos. I put this on a memory stick in case it was useful to Steve.

When they arrived (they were slower coming back due to more in the dinghy) we handed over John camera batteries and the memory stick as it turned out Steve could use the data. I then set about changing the fuel filters with John’s help and then, while in the mood, cleaned all the barnacles off the speed log which has been showing zero speed through the water for a few days.

Steve came back just before they departed with the batteries and the stick. They’re heading west two months before us but he’s keen on making the Pacific Puddle Jump party in Tahiti as are we so hopefully we’ll meet up there.

Only other event was yet another local boat coming by. This one had four guys in it smelling of alcohol and toking on a fat herbal joint asking for gasoline. They got none from me and after asking for a few other things I gave them a cup of water. They left at high speed – no apparent concern for fuel consumption.

So we’re staying here another day to do fully do the river trip. It was worth the wait to get John’s batteries charged and we’re in no hurry. While I like my plans (as they force us to look at our options and learn what we need to learn) they are always subject to change. Against the plan I made up for Panama / Costa Rica We are already two or three days ahead of schedule due to skipping areas we didn’t want to stop at and not using a spare day. Where we’ll use this I don’t know.

Parts

For the last few days we’ve been building a list of parts we need for a few projects on the boat so that we could go out on a single mission and acquire as many as possible in a single effort. In the morning I was able to figure out how to make my TV Link feed to my chart plotter so the parts necessary to make that permanent were added to the list.

We went ashore and first visited the Abernathy marine store right by the dinghy dock and picked up some replacement dive boots as mine are falling apart and a bit tight. We then grabbed an English speaking taxi driver to go shopping. The usual deal around here is $10/hour running around town. It’s a pretty good deal as you get a translator as well as someone who knows their way around town. After four and a half hours we managed to get everything on our list bar some copper foil plus a whole bunch of things we saw and realized we needed.

A nice surprise along the way was bumping into Steve & Trish from Curious in one of the stores. They’re currently berthed in Shelter Bay in Colon and are due to transit next Sunday. It’s possible we’ll bump into them in Las Perlas. We also received a nice call from Gerald and Dianne from Whiskers who had recently bumped into friends of ours on Bristol Rose and Jackster in the San Blas. Jacksters will be transiting in February so we’ll have to wait until the mid-Pacific to meet up with them again. Bristol Roses are whizzing through on the World ARC so we have a chance to see them in Las Perlas too. If we miss them there they’ll be way ahead of us as they’re on a pace to reach Australia by August.

Back on the boat I tested the 4 gallons of distilled water we’d bought. It was no better than our water maker water so that was a waste of money. As we wanted to do a battery inspection we used the bypass I had installed a few months back to run our on board water through a second time to make nearly pure water. After one cock up and a lot of mess we managed to make just under a gallon of battery water at the expense of a whole tank of on board water. Worse still I didn’t realize we’d used the other tank with recent washing so we were down to almost nothing. We managed to get the water maker going but with difficulty as the water outside was thick with crud and it kept clogging our primary filter which we put in new just a couple of weeks ago. Yach. We did check all the batteries and all was well. All the voltages were good and none needed any water so that was that.

During our taxi outing we had spotted and Indian restaurant and had picked up a card. We decided to eat there in the evening. The food was more like the Indian food in the US – nice but too salty. And a bit too expensive. Nevertheless, we’d have regretted not going.

What else. We have heard that our sail is fixed. We’ll meet Enrique today to hand over the cash and he’ll pick it up. He’ll do our paperwork to clear us out tomorrow morning and hopefully he’ll be back to the boat in time for us to leave to Las Perlas. Otherwise we’ll be off early Thursday morning. All we have to do before then is fill the freezer with food (today) and load up with diesel, including all our jerry cans as this will probably be the cheapest diesel this side of New Zealand.