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Last Two Days in South Africa

On our last day but one we decided to go to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  Our legs were still screaming from the walk down the mountain a couple of days earlier so we practised being very old folk and keeping mostly on the gentle paths and avoiding steps as much as possible.  It was a peaceful interlude allowing ourselves some time to think about the days ahead.  We barely covered a fraction of the gardens as they were vast.  Several visits would be required to get a sense of the place.

We returned to our lodgings for 2-3 hours to rest and to pack.  In the evening we went to the V&A docks area.  Our first stop was the marina just in case there was someone there who we knew.  There weren’t but it was nice to be down by the water.  It was a bittersweet experience though as it is already beginning to look like another life, one which we sometimes find it hard to believe we’ve experienced for ourselves.  We ate out in the docks area.

Upon awaking on our final day we discovered an email from South African friends of ours (Ruth and Rob on Albatross III) who are now domiciled in New Zealand.  We first met them, briefly, when we were in the Rosarios in Colombia and then many times across the Pacific (including New Zealand).  They have a daughter, Savannah, in Cape Town who they asked us to go and see.  The biggest sacrifice cruisers make is separation from their families so we knew how much this request meant.  So we dumped some admin on my sister (sorry Sue) to make time to go and give their daughter a surprise visit and proxy hugs from her Mum.  We then visited the District 6 museum in town followed by a walk in The Company Gardens.

Soon, our time was up.  It was back to the lodgings, pick up our luggage and off to the airport, drop off the hire car, and take the long flights home to the UK.

Back in the water

The last morning in the yard continued to be a busy one. I attached four more batteries onto the house bank bringing it up to eight our of usual twelve. Three of the newly attached batteries were sitting on top of the bunk leaving us access to the void below as we have ideas for this space.

We had two coats of paint to apply to the sail drives and the four patches where the old shafts and supports had been removed. Helen applied the first coat and I the second.

We decided against putting propspeed onto the new props. It needs 24 hours to cure and given the expense of it I didn’t want it to go wrong. So there will be some prop scraping to do perhaps. There are worse things in life.

There was some toing and froing around the bills making sure the separate bill going to Beneteau and our bill had all the correct items on. In the end this was all worked out and the bills settled.

I took a trip into town to learn where we’d be placed. We were booked on the very end of the finger dock which was perfect. Easy approach and on the river side so we can come and go when we want.

While there I bumped into Ruth and Roy on Albatross III. They had been heading down to Auckland but had ducked up the river to avoid the nasty weather forecast for today (Saturday). It didn’t take too many nanoseconds before drinks were lined up for the evening. I also ran into Bruce from Migration who offered to line handle for us when we arrived later in the day.

Back at the yard we focussed on tidying up. Helen cleaned the interior of the boat while I spent some time sorting all the goodies left over from all the work. I also discovered both ends of one of the hoses in the gas locker were leaking. I used four of my new acquired hose clamps to fix this.

Bertrand and Joel took a well earned extended lunch break. When they returned we took both cars into town and returned in one so we had the means to be mobile later.

Then we all waited while the boats ahead of us were processed in and out of the water. Then, all of a sudden it was all go for us. The boat was lifted and within minutes in the water. Unfortunately I’d left the memory card from my camera in the computer – again – so no pics of launch.

Joel and Bertrand were first aboard and testing the engines. They both fired up first time. An issues was discovered when starting the generator as the house 110V and air conditioning 220V circuits were switched over. This, apparently, was due to some mislabelling of wires at the factory and once diagnosed was soon fixed. As far as we can tell no damage was caused by this but I do want to double check our main charger this morning.

Once all was checked and ok we were off. The new controls which physically control the motors by wires are a lot stiffer than the electric controls which were light as a feather. I was a bit nervous bringing the boat out of the dock with new engines but all was ok. Soon we were motoring up the river, against the current and into a 20 knot head wind. The old electric motors would have had a hard time under these conditions but the new engines handled it with ease.

As we approached the dock I called Bruce from Migration who came over to help. We eased onto the dock and were soon tied off. First cruise was a success.

Once everything was shut down we celebrated with a beer. We thanked Joel and Bertrand for doing a fantastic job. They have been a credit to Lagoon/Beneteau going above and beyond the call of duty so to speak with the work they have performed. Helen and I are both feeling pretty good at the moment.

After the beer I took Joel and Bertrand back to Norsand to collect their car. There we parted ways until Sunday when they’ll return for additional testing.

Helen and I then popped off for some fast food then returned to the boat to shower in the hot water resulting from our short trip up the river. One of the benefits of going to diesel is that the port engine cooling circuit runs through the heat exchanger in our immersion tank so we get hot water for free.

Then we were off to Albatross III for the evening returning around midnight after far too much to drink.

We’re truly back on the water.

The only issue we really have at the moment is the boat is now currently front heavy. With the old electric motors and batteries in the back we were fairly balanced. Now we’re not. I still have eight batteries forward and they should be moved. We may have to reconsider where other things are, like our dive tanks, to even things out.

Today the nasty weather is due in. Already the wind is up and forecast to increase. The dock lines are creaking against the strain. We have a few things to do but both fancy a bit of a lazy day.

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.

Weather

The weather is now getting our full attention.

Today it matters because we still have things to do. Mainly shopping. And moving the boat to a new slip. The forecast says ‘Showers becoming more frequent. Strong southwesterly.’ Bugger.

Tomorrow it matters because we’ve invited everyone we know to drinks and nibbles aboard Dignity as it will (hopefully) be our last evening in Whangarei. The forecast for tomorrow says ‘Cloudy at times. Southwesterlies.’ That’ll do.

Wednesday it matters as we want to be out of here. Don’t want to go down the river and sailing out to sea with it pissing down. The current forecast for Wednesday says ‘Cloudy at times. Southwesterlies.’ That’ll do nicely.

Beyond Wednesday we’d like to be nosing our way up the coast towards the Bay of Islands. The forecasts for Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun are : ‘Fine. Light winds.’ (nice but bugger), ‘Dry. Light winds.’ (nice but bugger), ‘Showers with not much wind.’ (double bugger), ‘Rain with little wind.’ (crap).

The good news is that the only thing that’s as variable as the weather is the forecast so there’s quite a good chance this is exactly how the next few days won’t go.

This near term microscopic view on the local weather fits in (as it should) with the broader patterns we’re keeping an eye on with respect to understanding and picking a weather window to Fiji. The convergence zone (and hence a lot of wetness) is still sitting over Fiji and has yet to move north for the winter. The low/ridge north of NZ that I’ve been watching is continuing to head east opening up a sailing window to Fiji tomorrow. This has been confirmed by good old Bob McDavitt’s weekly weathergram. The local SW followed by calmer winds are what we’d expect from this configuration as a high is following.

This window is not for us. We’ll take the next one. I like to rehearse the decision making process though so I’ll continue to look at the weather as if we were leaving and see how things pan out. Near term it make me feel like putting as many miles in as possible on Wednesday before the calm weather sets in. Smart idea after a party the night before.

Can’t get by without a status report while we’re still in that mode.

Boat and car cleaning took up much of the day. This included inspecting the bow lockers. The starboard bow locker was fine but the port was not. We’ve known we’ve had some water intrusion there for sometime but have not nailed specifically where it was coming from. Now I know why. We had intrusion from two of the stanchions, the bridle anchor point and a screw. So that was all fixed. We left everything out to dry.

I spent a little time collating information on marine radio bands and local cruising nets. I also went to the local internet cafe to download all the latest O/S and virus updates for my laptop. Helen went on an additional provisioning run.

We had intended a ‘dry’ evening. A bold and inspirational move for us. We failed miserably when passing by Albatross III who had the Jacksters aboard. One thing led to another.

On the water

It’s nice to be back on the water with the sound of fish occasionally leaping out of the water. Mind you, we have no inclination to go swimming as it’s still just as murky in the river here. I reckon the fish jump merely to see where they’re going.

The countdown clock is set. Our minds are set on leaving Whangarei on Wednesday and playing it by ear as to where we’ll end up. High tide is at 9am local time so we can leave in the morning and have the benefit of the ebb to go down river. If the weather permits we’ll start heading up the coast.

All is set for Tuesday and selling the car. We’ve agreed with Phil from Cars for Cruisers to sell the car back to him on Tuesday with the chance of a loaner should we later make it to Opua and need to go into town to provision. That saves leaving the car in Opua and having to rush things at the last minute. It also helps Phil out which we don’t mind as he’s been so helpful.

Although Saturday was more relaxed than life (if you can call it that) in the yard we did manage some boat work before the bad weather set in.

After one last check of the shaft seals (all good) I reinstalled the final two house batteries. I then transferred 30 gallons of diesel purchased in the Galapagos to our main tanks. We now have enough diesel to motor to Opua if we had to (don’t want to though) where we’ll fill up with duty free fuel after clearing out.

Then we installed the 1st and 2nd reef lines running them up the boom. When they were last removed we drew through two smaller lines which we’d use to bring the reefing lines. Perhaps due to rushing to avoid bad weather coming in we managed to lose both lines in the boom necessitating using a fish line to put them back in place. This is not so hard as such but somehow the fish line always finds a way to weave in and out of the other lines inside the boom so that once the light line is in place a certain amount of keyhole surgery is required through the end of the boom to untangle them.

Next was a SSB email check. Particularly when anchored/moored in towns this can require patience as local interference and band availability can conspire against each other. Not this time. I obtained a connection to the Wellington winlink station first time and my test email went through. It is interesting to note that the unusual recent two year extended minimum in the solar cycle is now over and flux (I think that’s the right word) has shot up. I understand this bodes well for us as this will improve communications at sea.

With a new balance of power established Helen opened up on the dirt focusing on the inside of the boat allowing the anticipated rain to begin the exterior onslaught. We did a short run in the car to pick up cleaning materials from the chandlers across the river and to drop off a memory stick to the Callistos. On the way back we drove to look at some sea kayaks. We’ve often been envious of others and have been considering one for a while. There was one in the store with a little ding in it resulting in a small discount from a pretty high starting price. It’s a two person lightweight kayak which (we were told) is excellent for one man surfing. I say one ‘man’ in this case as this aspect has appeal to half the Dignity crew. Decision is yet to be made on this.

With the weather turning grim I dropped off Helen at the local supermarket for some near term provisioning while I parked the car and lugged all our old sails from the car to the boat. They have a bit of life left in them so they could act as spares. Alternatively we may just give them to the Pacific islanders which I think is better than throwing them away. A living can be made out of an old sail that we would otherwise throw away. It’s worth hanging onto them just for that reason alone.

In the afternoon I was presented with the problem of naming the metal tube with a 180 bend that sits just before the mast allowing cabling to come from within the boat without water penetration. I asked the Leu Cats and Albatross IIIs with no result bar getting a spare Vodaphone USB modem from Rob on Albatross III. That saves us picking one up in Fiji. Thanks to them for that.

Before really settling down my final accomplishment was to renew our EPIRB registration which is due every two years.

In the evening Steve and Darusha from Scream came for dinner after which we played a few games of Fluxx. Having played and enjoyed the game aboard Scream up in Tonga I’d ordered a few packs. I must have been inebriated when I did so as I ended up with 7 differently themed packs with one extra duplicate pack. We played all 7 packs separately and 2 of the favourites again: Martian and Pirates.