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Last day in Whangarei

What a day. We started the day with one last wash. The genset started ok but not with the zest we know it can with a good power supply. It’s battery was getting tired. A quick decision was made and it was off to the battery store to buy and then install a new battery. When I moved the original battery I tucked it way out of the way which meant pulling loads of stuff out of the generator compartment and then squeezing myself into a very tight place to work. Glad we did that as the genset starts perfectly now.

Next task was to head for Opua to sell the car back to Phil from Cars for Cruisers. I had an agreement with Rob and Ruth from Albatross III to head up to Opua too and give me a ride back. Just before leaving we bumped into a young lady from the NE US whose on a traveling trip and was looking for passage up to Fiji. We offered to take her up to Opua and back to investigate things there and learn a bit more about making what she was trying to do work.

On arriving in Opua I let Lauren off to explore the area and agreed to meet up at the Fish and Chip shop at noon where I’d promised to buy lunch for everyone for helping out. The deal with Phil went through smoothly and soon I was walking away with a cashable check.

While waiting for Lauren to show up I bumped into Andy from Zephyrus which was a pleasant surprise. We chatted for a while and I asked about people looking for crew. He had a good lead and shared it with Lauren when she found us. About 12:30 Rob and Ruth turned up having seen some friends. Unfortunately the Fish and Chip shop in Opua had closed down so we headed off to Pahia for the banks and shops there. Half way there I realize I’d left my GPS unit somewhere so we headed back finding it with Phil.

Leaving the others to look around I first went to Westpac to cash the check using my passport to prove my identity. She had to call Phil to verify the check was ok to cash and he approved with the caveat I owed him a GPS unit. She found the explanation of his remark quite funny. My next stop was the ANZ bank to deposit most the cash keeping enough to pay for our new kayak.

With all the financials handled I found the others and bought all Fish and Chips on the waterfront which turned out to be overfilling but delicious.

Rob took us north out of Pahia for a different route back to Whangarei. A few miles out of town I realized I didn’t have our folder containing our boat papers and passports. Not again. So back into town we went. I checked first at the Westpac. The teller grinned hugely and went to the safe to retrieve my passport. I found the folder in the ANZ where I’d left it. Where was my head???? I checked to make sure it was still in the right place physically. I think my brain had already set sail.

No more mishaps beset us as we traveled back to Whangarei. Rob helped me collect the kayak which we placed on the boat. Helen had spent the day making a clean boat immaculate for the evening’s party. By now there was not much time left. I performed a few small jobs around the boat before showering and soon after folks began to show.

All in all we had the pleasure of welcoming the crew from Albatross III, Attitude, Blue Penguin, Boree, Callisto, Clara Katherine, Division II, El Regalo, Imagine, Jackster, Leu Cat, Marquesa, Proximity, Sail Away, Scream, Sea Mist, Sidewinder, Stray Kitty, Tahina, True Companions and Tyee along with one or two marina neighbours. That was about forty people at once. It was a great test of our through hulls as we were down about 6-9 inches in the water. We didn’t sink.

This morning we woke fairly early and after doing last minute internetty things we dropped of our key to the shower block and headed out. As we headed down the river the winds were light and behind us. And cold. We motored on batteries alone for about 30 mins before turning on the generator. Near the river mouth we caught sight of True Companions ahead of us and called them on the radio to greet them.

As we rounded the heads we hit a dead patch and used the opportunity to raise the new main. We crossed our fingers hoping for wind as we really wanted to see how our new sails would perform. We didn’t have to wait too long and soon we were in winds that were to vary between 10-20 knots as we headed up the coast. We were gobsmacked by the improved boat performance. Before the boat speed would fade below about 12 knots under main and jib. Now she was achieving above 1/2 wind speed all the way down to 9 knots on the beam. We’ve never seen it so good.

We have found a couple of issues. The reef points on the new main are higher up than before and now the 1st reef only has a turn of spare line at the winch which is not enough to reef on the fly. We also have new modes of vibration on the luff of the main which we need to figure out how to handle. Apart from that everything seems to be in amazing shape. It feels like we have a new boat.

Our original plan had us making our way up the coast in smaller steps. With reduced wind tomorrow and nasty northeasterlies forecast for Friday we’re aiming to cover as much distance as we can today and complete the trip to the Bay of Islands tomorrow where we can find shelter from any type of wind. Our goal for today is the Whangamumu Bay which we visited last November.

We’ve now settled into a pleasant sail up the coast putting on and taking off our warm clothes as the sun goes in and out. We have about a knot of counter current but we’re doing well against it. We even have a line out for fish but nothing caught yet. We’ve shed the land life and are back on the water.

Barnacle Beach

Around mid morning we dinghied ashore to Nuku to explore the island. There wasn’t a great deal to see but we did get to stretch our legs. Back on the boat we hooked up the hookah so we could explore the area in which we are anchored a little better. Ben and I went down shortly before lunch as we were keen to see what fish we could catch deeper than we could free dive. We found an underwater prominantary which appeared particularly abundant at around 70ft. Here we snagged a couple of groupers of a decent size which we took back to the boat where we gutted and bagged them for a later meal.

In the afternoon Helen and I went out, not going quite so deep, to explore the corals. The area is quite abundant with fish of many different species and numbers. Around each coral head was a blaze of colourful fish which made for a pleasant exploration.

After this I popped over to Zephyrus who had anchored nearby to pick up our diesel. It turned out our jerry can, which had held diesel all the way over from the Galapagos, had sprung a leak. Andy offered to replace the can but I declined his offer saying that it must have been faulty and would soon have gone on us. He did have our diesel in a can so I took that and tipped it into our tanks promising to drop off the can later on.

We’d decided to have a ‘Tonga Feast’ that evening as Barnacle Beach was nearby and they have a feast every Saturday evening. On the way there we dropped of the diesel can back at Zephyrus as well as loaning them our phone. We’d had reports of a boat than sunk 110nm to our south and it turned out to be very good friends of theirs. We knew the crew had been rescued but Andy needed to contact them. I’d bought some extra minutes expecting to be talking to the US to fix our charger (which we won’t be doing here now) so they’d have gone to waste any way. Hopefully Andy will have got through.

Next stop was Barnacle Beach for our feast. The first thing we learned that it was bring your own wine which we hadn’t. I had to whizz back to Dignity for a couple of bottles getting back late. There were a few folks there we knew – Jack from Anthem, Evy from Wonderland, the Bamboozles and we got to know Gary and Tiere from Pursuit.

The feast was very well laid out and very, very tasty. There were all sorts of meats, fruits and salads laid out in shells including a small roast pig. We felt quite full. After the food we had four Tongan solo dancers doing their thing. We were then given some time to mingle and chat before the evening was over.

The winds which have been blowing hard for the last 2-3 days have finally subsided. It is quite calm right now. We intend to move closer to Nieafu today before reentering the harbour tomorrow. Ben is quite pleased as Infinity is in town and they’ve already announced a party on Monday night.


We spent mainly a restful day aboard. We made one excursion in the dinghy to reach the island to our north – Umuna. A trail climbs up from the beach and shortly descends into a cave with brackish water at the bottom. We all took our face masks but only I got in. The water is inhabited by many shrimp which soon started picking at my skin with their tiny claws. I tried catching a few but all I ended up with was a tiny leg which a shrimp preferred to lose rather than be caught.

Ben and I responded to a call from Andy and Rianne from Zephyrus who were currently aboard Gangada (the French boat involved with our dinghy rescue). They’d just tipped some fuel from diesel cans they’d filled in French Polynesia into their tanks. Andy had subsequently noticed a distinct odour of gasoline from one of the jerry cans which is not what one wants to put in a diesel tank. They had samples of diesel and gas from Gangada as well as samples from their cans which they wanted some additional smell testing on.

Asking for a fully blind test Ben and I sniffed the four separate jars of fuel. The reference diesel was hard to spot and we pinned the petrol/gasoline. The two samples from Zephyrus smelled like a mix of the two but not the same. All four jerry cans had been filled from the same source. I suggested putting a match to the various samples as petrol should burn but diesel not. The reference samples from Gangada behaved as they should and one of the two samples from Zephyrus lit up. Andy was confident in his history and the only conclusion I could come up with was that the source from where they filled was contaminated with a mixture of gas and diesel and that they received a different blend as their cans were filled.

After some discussion we lent them a spare can of diesel from which they could feed their fuel lines. Along with sailing most of the way, that would get them to Neiafu where they could drain their tank, clean it out and replace it with clean diesel. What a pain for them.

In the evening we had a BBQ cooking up sausages and racks of pork which we later realized was lamb. Helen dropped a fork in the water. We have a weight bag with a line and float set up for these situations so this went in the water. The float sat about 5-10 feet below the surface so we should find it this morning and retrieve the fork.

The situation with our charger is looking to be a farce. Senior management in Lagoon and CatCo all seem to be aware of the situation but nothing seems to be happening. CatCo have deferred to an independant to manage the problem but promises have been made and not fulfilled. The gulf between the commitment Lagoon/Catco gave and the reality of the situation is about as big as it gets. I hate to dish these guys in public as I really need them on my side. But this really is pathetic.


My original plan to retrieve the dinghy was to wait until the tide has risen sufficiently to float it off the patch of sand/reef it was stranded on. John from Tyee called me to say he’d rounded up enough able bodied men from the boats around to lift it off the reef sooner. Realizing that most of the nearby boats were planning to leave and that if my plan A failed I would have no help I agreed. After all, if lifting it off turned out to be impossible then I always had my original plan to fall back on.

John arrived with Andy from Zephyrus and a father and son from a Gangada. With our Ben along we headed over to the other side of the bay – nearly 2 miles away. Getting onto the reef was a challenge but we made it although we had to leave John in his dinghy as there was nowhere to anchor. The dinghy was further away than we remember but nicely sitting on sand. The patch of the reef nearest the water was festooned with small urchins and plenty of pits and hollows which was a little forbidding.

With the outboard locked on (key on boat) and with anchor chain and safety chain aboard it was all pretty heavy. We were able to carry it though with three at the back and one at the front. Each position was tiring so we would rotate after each short walk. When we reached the treacherous part we would carefully plant our feet and shift it forward one or two feet at a time. Soon we had it in the water and afloat. The engine fired up cleanly – a big relief. We then had to retrieve our helpers from the reef which took a little coordination. We gave plenty of thanks to our helpers and returned our separate ways.

Later in the morning Ben and I went back ashore to Ben and Lisa’s island. I had left my camera ashore – Saturday was not my best day. We met Bill and Johanna there from Visions of Johanna. Bill is a doctor and was visiting Ben who had fallen out of a tree the night before. Hopefully he’ll be ok.

On the way back from the island Ben and I dropped of at Tyee to say thanks again. While there we were able to help them fix a laptop which would not start up so all of us ended up happy.

The afternoon we just relaxed. We really are pooped and tired from the last couple of weeks and needed the down time.

Sadly we have still not received any communication about the latest tracking number for our charger from CatCo. It has taken six weeks so far and we have yet to overcome the difficulties this end. I have reached the point where if they’ve not sent it already we need to figure something else out. Tremendously disappointing. With no other issues getting to NZ with 1/6 of our charging capability lost is not that big a deal. It’s hard to fathom how so little can be accomplished in six weeks.