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NZ->Fiji: Day 0

A quick scan of the morning forecasts was not immediately encouraging. The forecast looked better for the afternoon and pretty light in the morning. Not what we wanted as we were eager to go. Another boat mention motoring up to the Poor Knights Islands to do some sight seeing on the way out. That seemed the basis of a good idea. We could do the same and if the wind picked up along the way we’d switch to sailing for Fiji.

Bruce the customs/immigration guy arrived about 9am and cleared us out. He was as cheerful as ever. We headed off almost immediately and motored out down the river against the incoming tide. Once out of the river we put out our headsail to help us along. About a third of the way up to Poor Knights the wind did pick up so we furled the head sail, put up the main and then put out the head sail again.

We carried on motor sailing for a short while towards Poor Knights Islands before I decided to turn east. “We’re on our way to Fiji”.

The wind still wasn’t too strong and whenever we dropped below 4 knots we put on one of the engines to bring us up to 5 knots. We rarely had the engine on for more than 15 mins before the wind picked up enough to turn it off. The sea was almost flat so the going was easy and noone really felt seasick for too long.

The wind direction was as predicted and took us off nearly east. Also as expected it gradually turned and strengthened over night. We are now on course for our first waypoint which is placed to minimise the swell that works its way around New Zealand. We’re making a respectable 8.5 knots even though we’re running downwind. Not our best point of sail.

It’s been cold and wet overnight making the night watches less than pleasurable. I suspect we have another day of gray weather ahead of us before it clears.

All is well aboard.

Our friends aboard Sidewinder also departed yesterday and we’ve been in frequent radio contact with them. Sam received a call from them during his night watch and learned that David unfortunately has some issue with his leg which has caused them to head back to NZ and check into Opua. We wish them all the best. It means we’re out here on our own this time.

We caught a skipjack tuna yesterday. Not our thing. It got tossed back after a gutting demonstration for Sam.

Predeparture Passage

It couldn’t have gone much better. At 5:30am we left our slip and exited the marina beneath the raised footbridge. For the first hour the wind was light so we didn’t raise the sails until we were round North Head and west of Rangitoto. Leaving Auckland in the dark provided us with a fantastic last memory of the city twinkling away. Farewell Auckland and thanks for all the happy memories.

When the wind came it was just right. Over the course of the trip we saw anything from 15 knots to 27 knots. We had some good exercise shaking out and putting in reefs in the sails. The swell was light making the sail pretty comfortable. We arrived and anchored in Marsden bay at 4:30pm, 11 hours after we started. Not bad considering we’d half expected to arrive after dark.

We anchored here because this is where Suzi and Dave from Sidewinder were anchored and as this is our last night we can party it seemed as good an excuse as any. As they’d already stowed their dinghy for passage and we hadn’t I picked them up and dropped them off. We had a nice evening together. We’ll certainly see them on the dock tonight as we await our check out and departure tomorrow.

The forecast remains good for a departure tomorrow morning. The key thing is keeping the pace to avoid a high pressure system settling over the area 3-4 days from now. If that catches us we’ll run out of decent wind. The first 24 hours will see the wind direction changing a lot so it will keep us on our toes.

The passage overall looks to be pretty good. No signs of any really bad weather and we’ll be going from quarter to full moon so the nights will be nice.

It would be fantastic if we can make the passage in 7 days because then we’d arrive in Fiji on Sam’s birthday. We’d have to average 6.8 knots to make that which is possible but we’d need to be lucky. It’s more likely we’ll take 8 days.

We have a few final things to do to the boat before departure (like removing the outboard from the dinghy) which we’ll do on the dock this afternoon. But after our sail up from Auckland, crew and boat are looking pretty ready to go.

Departure thoughts

We’re now down to gobbling up the weather forecasts every six hours to help refine the departure decision. I have been favouring a Sunday departure for the last couple of days but that has now shifted towards a preferred Monday morning departure. Saturday now looks to be a feisty day to sail the boat up to Marsden Point so we can clear out there.

We decided to stay in the marina for an extra night or two but we couldn’t stay on the berth we were on. We had until midday to move down to the south end of the marina.

In the afternoon Sam went to visit crewman Paul at his new pad. Paul has some need of some graphic design work and Sam’s in need of projects. Seemed a good match and Sam may now have his first commission.

I spent some time researching duty free fuel and booze. Duty free fuel is only available in Auckland for mega-yachts who take fuel by the tank load and the booze options appear very limited and awkward. Oh well. Looks like our plans are revolving round the weather and we’ll just have to make do. It could be worse. We could be paying for an unusable return ticket for Sam.

So – subject to confirming Paul can synch with our plan we could be heading north tomorrow. I like the idea of getting some coastal sailing in for Sam before leaping across the ocean to Fiji. The Monday departure means we’re less likely to arrive in Fiji in time for Sam’s birthday on the 7th but that’s the weather for you.

We have a few last minute things to do here in Auckland which will be made less fun by rain which is now falling abundantly.

One nice piece of news is that we’re in contact with Suzi and Dave on Sidewinder who have similar departure plans. The rest of our friends still have things to do so will be looking to catch the next opportunity out of Opua. We hope to see them all up in the islands.

Sunday in the yard

We had very little breeze in the morning so we were able to complete the stainless steel testing. The results for the forward port support were also encouraging. Having tested the key areas we now need to run the pictures by a metallurgist for their expert opinion.

I managed to find someone in the yard who had an AIS receiver and was able to test the system. We first tested with the AIS splitter in place and didn’t see anything. I hindsight this might have been due to us not waiting long enough so this will need to be retested. After leaving the other boats AIS receiver on, going back to our boat, connecting the AIS transceiver directly to the antenna and returning to the other boat I could see Dignity loud and clear. I also managed to confirm that the boat length was indeed programmed incorrectly. In the end this turned out to be very easy to fix. While the configuration software stated it could not be reprogrammed twice, the message was referring only to the MMSID (radio license id). I can change the dimensions and ships name as much as I like.

It’s worth noting that I’m definitely getting better range/reception out of this new set up. I can see boats at the mouth of the river which we never could with our old antenna.

The rest of the day was spent finishing off the nav station. It took more time than I had imagined but I got there in the end. You can see the before and after pictures in the slideshow at the end of this blog.

Although it looks finished there are still a few things left to do. The SSB control head and speaker are loose and probably need to be glued on. In the past panel the speaker was jammed in but the current hole is just the right size so I can’t do that. Because the control head is nearer the edge I can’t use the old method I used to fix it. Hence I may have to glue them on. I also have to create a hole to run the USB cable from the SSB modem. I’ll also pass the wires for our portable GPS through this hole as will pass the RS232 connector that will allow my PC to receive information from the various GPSs. I then need to connect all this up via the rotary selector switch and connect these all to the SSB and VHF radio so each unit will receive GPS signals again. In doing all this I also need to connect the new AIS to the chart plotter.

Ok. So I haven’t finished the nav station but it looks it and I feel happy with the result.

Bertrand and Joel came for the morning. They spent quite a lot of time on the rear rail which covers the join between the top half of the boat and the bottom. Turns out the weight of the dinghy and the movement at sea have pulled the parts apart. They fixed all this and did a fantastic job of it. The pics below show the separated parts (after all the current glue had been removed). Need to get one of the finished result as it looks good. I need to hunt around for what else they did. It’s hard to keep track at times.

In the evening there was a bit of a get together at the communal area to hear about some recent adventures of a mixture of Fijians and westerners who took to the sea in a group of vessels based upon traditional Fijian designs. It was quite interesting but a great excuse to get everyone together. Dave and Suzie from Sidewinder were there as were Derek and Alison from Kalida. We met a few other folks from here in the yard who we hope to see again over time.

Wednesday in the yard

We’re starting to get busy though, in hindsight, perhaps not busy enough.

In the early morning I spent some time researching travel options for Sam. In the end, the best flight I could find was via Fiji of all places. That’s now booked. He leaves Sunday, April 22nd and arrives around midday on the following Tuesday. We have promised to buy him a new laptop. Spent some time researching that with some input from John in the UK. Got some ideas but not yet bought the kit.

Helen spent a lot of time throughout the day cleaning the outside of the boat. There are a lot of tiny fungal spots all over the surface of the boat. This all needs bleaching to kill off. Round 1 is done but it looks like a second round of bleaching and washing will be required.

I spent the morning dismantling the old nav station labelling all the wires as I went and securing them so they didn’t disappear into the void behind. I also replaced the broken exterior speaker.

Looking ahead I have booked a service for our life raft. That’s down in Auckland and there is a waiting list of about 3 weeks. We are now on the list and need to drop the life raft off next week. I’m also trying to arrange a service for our chart plotter as
the cooling fan is noisy and the unit overheats if the display brightness is on full. I was given an email by the local Garmin support but have yet to get a response to the request I sent. Right now I have an external fan wired in which provides some cooling from behind.

After lunch I was picked up by the car hire company and taken to their depot. For NZ$40 we’ve got quite a large, air conditioned automatic which feels like a sedan to drive. With 140,000km on the clock it’s not spanking new but it does the job.

Once in the car I visited a recommended car radio specialist to try and sort out some sort of bracket to hold in the new radio I have. While there I spoke to him about how I might install it given that it was not going to be put in a car. I got some advice re wiring which I hoped would be useful.

While out I also picked up some ‘dye penetrant‘ which I’m going to use to inspect the load bearing stainless steel around the boat. We have noticed a small crack on one of the bimini supports so we really should do the works and check it all out while we’re in a position where repairs can be made.

Back on the boat I cut the connections to our old radio and crimped on the connections to the new one. In hindsight I wish I’d simply twisted on the power connections and tested first. With the way I have currently wired the unit, I can’t turn it off. There is a button labelled off but if I press it and hold it down, the unit goes into demo mode. I also made a mistake with how I wired the brake sensor (which disables the video functions). Obviously, in a car, watching video while driving is a tad dangerous so the unit has a brake sensor that enables the video when grounded. However, it turns out the video is only enabled if the brake sensor is grounded *after* the unit is switched on. That means I need to wire in a relay to delay the grounding.

My final task of the day was to fit new blinds over the two read berths. The starboard blind broke last year. Ours is ok but the starboard forward shower is totally broken and seized up. We get the new one and the shower will get our old one. Helen wants me to do a more complicated switcheroo involving the blinds over the forward starboard bunk. All that area is full of junk at the moment and I can’t get there so I’ve done as much as I can of this project for now.

At this point I left resolving the two radio issues until the next day as I was feeling a bit tired. So I pulled out a new toy I’d ordered from the US and brought to us in the UK by Ben. It was an XBox 360 with the Kinect motion sensor. The latter enables one to interact with certain games using body movements and gestures. Despite all the clutter and restricted floor space (our bed is currently in the main cabin keeping the bunks clear) I managed to get it going. Both Helen and I spent a fair amount of time ducking, dodging and jumping. We both worked up a bit of a sweat and it was fun. And that is the idea of it. Sometimes, when we don’t get off the boat, we don’t get a lot of exercise. Maybe this a way to do it.

I actually felt a bit guilty postponing the radio work for a bit of fun but after writing this blog I think I had a busy enough day.

When I was out and about, I ran into (not literally) David from Sidewinder. Turns out they’re on the hard just down the road. We should be able to meet up with them this Sunday as there’s going to be a presentation here in Norsand in the evening by some folks who have been sailing the Pacific on traditional catamarans.

We were also contacted by Elana who we first met, with partner Dave, in Antigua while watching Obama’s inauguration. That seems a very long time ago. Turns out they’re here in New Zealand and the upshot is we’re meeting in town this evening. Should be nice to catch up.

On the subject of bumping into people, the day we arrived at the yard we bumped into Dave and Alison from Kalida. They’re here in the yard somewhere. We never did get to meet them in Fiji so we’ll just have to make up somehow.

In the evening Helen and I went on our first provisioning run. While we have the car we need to get all the heavy stuff onto the boat as it will get a lot harder later. This included everything Helen could find on special offer plus a trolley load of wine. With respect to the latter we are essentially loading up to last from March to December. Even with Helen’s reduced weekly target of 4 bottles a week that’s still quite a few boxes. We’re now about 20% done on that front.

After provisioning we picked up some noodles in town and made our way back to the boat. We loaded the food aboard but left the wine in the car. We finished the day sampling one of our wines, eating our noodles and watching an old Bruce Lee movie. Helen didn’t make it until the end.

This morning I woke up about an hour and a half after yesterday so I’ll count that as progress. Helen, having woken for a while, is back asleep. It’s still dark outside even after writing all this.

You may have noticed no mention of the French technicians. That’s because there was nothing to say. I do have communications the strongly suggest they’ll be here today. One thing I’ll need to do is have them work out a new splash date and get this arranged. With a three day delay to the start of work I doubt we’ll hit the original target.