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Camping Gear

Knowing that there would be sales after Christmas we had postponed purchasing needed camping gear until yesterday. It’s a good thing too as it’s given us time to contemplate the balance of time we expect to spend (when we’re on our own again) between camping and more robust accommodation. We feel that we’ll be spending more time camping than in B&Bs so this has influenced us to get a more robust tent. We’ll still have our tiny two man tent (which the boys will get to use very soon) if/when we need it on a hike but we’ve decided to get something that will make life a little easier if we stay in it for many days at a time.

Yesterday morning we visited a number of stores to talk to people and look at their wares. This helped us build up an idea of what we wanted and where the prices were right. We returned to the boat for lunch before going out in the car to but the things we’d decided upon. One of the stores was closed so we weren’t able to get everything we wanted but we did pick up most: tent, mini-stove, lanterns (LED), air mattress, chairs. The rest we’ll get today. As much as possible we’re getting things that can be used after NZ – for instance, chairs can be used for beach parties which we’ve lacked to date.

We had wanted to go for a walk to the nearby Whangarei Falls but ran out of time. Ben and Sam visited Leu Cat as they’d been invited round for cigars with David. He enjoys one a day and has a fine collection. I think he enjoys a partner from time to time and is more than happy to share his very fine and extensive collection. The two of them fell asleep very early yesterday evening so I can only assume they’ve been having more fun recently than we’ve realized.

We also got a chance to say hello to Michael, Sandra, crew and friends from Larabeck who were passing through. They ate at the restaurant overlooking Dignity. Always nice to meet up. I do wonder how many days we’ll be able to string together while in the south island without bumping into folks we met in the Pacific.

Today we’ll clear the boat for our departure tomorrow. We’ve invited a few folks over this evening (and then a few more) for drinks and nibbles. By the time we’re back from our tour with Ben and Sam many of the cruisers will have started their own tours or moved on. This will be a chance for Ben to say goodbye (no – never goodbye – au revoir) to many of the folks he’s met along the way.

Tomorrow morning we’ll move the boat onto pilings and then head off to Auckland for a few days and then off into the mountains south of there. We’ll be quite busy and probably won’t have time to blog until we’re in Auckland.

Russell

We’ve escaped Opua. It’s a hard place to leave as there’s always a reason to stay an extra day. But that thinking gets you stuck and sooner or later you have move on or miss out. Before leaving we did one final provisioning – enough to last a couple of weeks so we can be flexible as we make our way to the Whangarei area.

After lunch (pies) the weather looked grey and the were spots of rain. We almost thought “what’s the point of leaving today” before realizing we were close to failing to escape the Opua trap. We raised the anchor cleaning the mud off as we did so thankful we chose the deck/anchor wash option for Dignity. With light winds we motored the entire 4 miles to Russell. This was another good test of the new charger. The extra power was noticeable. It was cool to be able to see a digital confirmation of our net current flow and drive battery state.

We found a spot between all the buoys to anchor in the bay in front of the small vacation town of Russell.

Leaving Ben aboard to continue his work Helen and I went ashore to explore the town. There was a well recommended museum which we didn’t enter as Helen had left her reading glasses behind. This worked out well for us as we were able to use the time to have a fun-filled hike around the area.

We first climbed Maiki Hill to the north of the town where there were excellent views of the town and the Bay of Islands in general. We then scrambled down the side of the hill to the road that led north to Tapeka Point. We didn’t make it all the way to the point turning off to the western beach close by. Having seen a coastal trail marked on a map at the museum we had a go at returning via the coast. Personally I thought it was a lot of fun but it turned out to be quite a challenging section. The path was really only a low tide option and it was approaching high tide. That required a lot of scrambling over and around rocks and occasional wading. But we made it having the entire route to ourselves. We found a made path back to town towards the end which had us climbing up and down the hills again adding to our exercise.

In town we bumped into the Larabecks (fiddler/music professor) and shared company over a beer by the shore. We soon had to return to the boat for dinner even though it still felt quite early. We’re still not used to the long hours of daylight as a result of our latitude and approaching summer.

Passage to New Zealand – Day 1

We’ve had an encouraging start to this passage. The winds, as predicted, did shift around enough for us to not only gain the rhumb line but to also let out the sails for a more comfortable ride. Overnight the swell, which always lags the wind, shifted too so we stopped crashing into the waves so much. All good. The wind forecasts are also coming in as good as we could hope for. We have pretty much a beam to close reach for the next few days in around and about 20 knots of wind which we will sail well in. The 7 day forecast even shows the stationary high in our way dissipating providing the hint that we may be able to sail all the way in.

All the boats that left yesterday are sailing for either Whangarei or Opua (mostly the latter) so we’re all close by. We always had sails on the horizon around us and Kilkea in particular took station 2 miles off our port and stayed there overnight. this morning within spitting distance of us are Attitude, Blue Penguin, Boree, Illusion, Imagine, Kilkea, Tin Tin and Larabeck. Quite a crowd.

Unfortunately, Sea Mist had to turn back. Outside of the reef at Tongatapu they noticed the stitching coming apart around the clew of their jib. They decided to turn back and effect repairs. We heard from them this morning. They have found a possible place to get it repaired. Our fingers are crossed that they can make it out in this weather window but it is tight. A low pressure system is chasing us down which will make things bumpier and wetter for them.

We had a little problem with our job too but nothing serious. I noticed some more of the stitching for the sun strip had come undone. Fortunate this was close to the furler so I went forward and stitched it up leaving the sail out. It was a bit awkward as I caught a few waves as well as catching my finger with the needle a few times.

More excitement came in the afternoon when we were briefly accompanied by some pilot whales. I rushed for my camera but they didn’t stay long enough to pose.

Sailing to New Zealand is a bit like playing dodgems with the weather systems. Given that it’s getting colder we’ve elected to use a little diesel on the way to provide some comfort in terms of warmth and to avoid loss of speed due to regeneration. If we need to slow down we’ll regenerate but not unless we need to. Our sailing angle to the wind is screwing up the wind gen as the wind spilling of the main spins it around and we get no useful energy from it. That’s a pity as we’d do pretty well in these wind speeds.

We’re currently managing to average just over 6 knots which puts us on an ETA for arrival next Thursday on the 8th. We’d always hoped to arrive before the weekend so this is a nice comfortable margin.

Weather or not

The morning weather session turned out to be quite useful. Members of 6 or 7 boats came ashore and we all sat around a long table with out laptops looking at various weather sources. There was a lot of discussion and sharing of ideas. I noticed Bert from Boree had a more up to date version of the software to view my downloaded wind/wave files and soon I was up to date seeing my wind, rain and waves in glorious technicolour. We’ve agreed to keep meeting at 10am each day although noone is individually bound to come.

The outlook for a passage to New Zealand right now is not good. A low pressure system is forecast to hang around about a 1,000 miles to the east of New Zealand with a high pressure system stalling to the west of New Zealand. Between them they squeeze some strong southerly winds and swell which would not be fun to beat through. For me, these systems are the thing to watch right now as everything is governed by them. We could be here for a while.

In the afternoon Helen and I went for a walk around Pangaimotu which was a pleasant leg stretch. At 6pm Sandra from Larabeck had agreed to play the fiddle. This was excuse enough for a number of us to come ashore and listen in. Soon we had Bert (the same one) accompanying her on a guitar from Imagine. All good fun and very memorable.

Disaster did strike yesterday in the form of running out of beer. The last of our reserves, topped up in the duty free store in Niue, are now exhausted. We’re also down to two bottles of wine. The rum is gone. We have gin but no tonic and some tequila fumes. Had we been leaving today this would have been perfect timing. Looks like we may have to go into town tomorrow to hunt down some essential provisions – tonic being the top of the list.

This morning we listened to the traffic on the Penguin net largely comprising the vessels who left here last Sunday. We know they’ve had a hard time over the last couple of days but it was great to hear things we settling out and they were mostly all past the bad weather and looking to arrive in New Zealand over the next few days. The one theme that did come through was ……. it’s cold down there.