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Last day in Savusavu

In the morning we went ashore to clear out and buy some fresh veg. On the way back to the boat we stopped off at a few friends to say goodbye. Amongst those we met were Gary from Inspiration Lady, George and Claudia from Dreamtime, David & Jackie from Jackster, Petr from Endless, Bruce & Alane from Migration, Paul & Maurine from Callypso and Ed & Cornelia from A Cappella. It’s amazing how many folks we know here in the creek at Savusavu. Everyone asked how I’m feeling which is a little better than before. Some progress.

Helen and I stayed on the boat for the rest of the day. Sam went ashore a couple of times to hang out with some of the folks he’s met. He returned the second time around 10:30pm. His arrival woke me up so I went upstairs and chatted with him for a while.

Today we head west on our first leg to Lautoka. I have 5 legs plotted which we’ll more or less follow.

They just don’t make it easy

Monday was sail day. On reflection I was half regretting the decision to drive up to Whangarei while Sam was on his way so I decided to take my laptop and check in regularly.

I’d woken up at stupid O’Clock, well before my 5:30am alarm call so after checking the internet and having breakfast I was off fairly early. I reached Whangarei at 8am and took the sail into the sailmaker and discussed the problem. They said this was very typical wear for a catamaran and they see it often. I guess the problem we fixed with this new sail (ie, the flat and ineffective top third) now made the sail a typical catamaran sail that would come into contact with the shrouds more and take more wear. We’ve already adapted our behaviour to compensate.

After seeing the sail maker I checked online and at that point there was no news from Sam, Ben or Amy who were all at Newark airport to see Sam off. I picked up propane and headed off to the marina where I ran into the kids and Dan from Division II as well as Bruce and Alene from Migration. I checked online again and this time messages were flowing in. Ben and Amy had been trying to call but couldn’t get a response. I tested my phone, it was working. I’d just missed a chance to chat, it seemed, as I was powering off previously and they’d had to act to resolve a problem thrown up by the airline.

A decade or so ago one could buy one way tickets anywhere and run into few difficulties. This was frequently abused by folks who would end up in a country with insufficient funds to move on. The hosting country would then bear the burden of repatriation. These days the airlines have to shoulder the responsibility and cost (if they don’t) of ensuring folks have the means to travel onwards from their destination. A return ticket to your country of residence is the standard test but not everyone does this. We had difficulties returning to our own boat from the UK but the airline had an escalation process that helped us deal with this.

Anticipating possible problems with Sam we consulted New Zealand Immigration several weeks back to understand what supporting documentation Sam would need to allow him into the country knowing he was leaving on the boat. They gave us some guidance which we followed sending Sam a letter proving he was joining the boat as crew, that we were taking responsibility for him and that the boat was legitimately in the country.

American Airlines, it turns out, have there own policy which is tighter than the destination country and don’t have an escalation process to resolve rare cases. They refused Sam onto the plane unless he had a return ticket or a visa. They refused to accept the documentation provided and refused to escalate to NZ Immigration who, as in our case, would have provided consent.

So the only options were to not travel or buy a return. A refundable return leg was priced at $3,400 and a non-refundable ticker was about $1,300 and the desk clerk gave the impression that the refundable ticket may not be, in all circumstance, refundable. Sam couldn’t cover the cost and Ben could only cover the cheaper ticket so they made the right decision to buy the return ticket and get him on the plane.

It is quite annoying to have gone through all the due diligence this end to ensure Sam would be welcome in the country to have the airline policy to be both more restrictive and have insufficient flexibility to handle this case.

I learned all this while sitting at the Town Marina and chatting with the folks from Migration I learned this was not uncommon and seems to be more and more one of those financial hazards of a cruiser and their crew.

On the upside Sam had had no issues with extra baggage. The duffle bag Helen had ordered to take the microwave and all the other spares ordered turned out to have been perfectly sized. The kids had done a great job packing and weighing as it came in at 50.0lbs. Spot on. Sam was on his way.

By 11am I had our repaired sail and was on my way back down to Auckland thinking through our new problem. $1,300 is a lot of money and almost twice the price of his ticket here. We’ve blown more than 3 times that amount blowing out a sail so this may just end up in the realm of the marine life burning through cash. After all BOAT is well known to stand for Break Out Another Thousand. But we’ve got to try and as ever, it’s best to start sooner rather than later.

Back in Auckland I parked the car near the boat and lugged the sail back to the boat. I made a second trip to get the rest of the stuff from the car. I then set about trying to get the right contact info to start an appeal with American Airlines and to get further information, hopefully some supporting documentation, from NZ Immigration while Helen made a couple of trips to retrieve my phone and to pump the meter.

My call to NZ Immigration was unusually less than helpful with the woman simply spitting out the same information I originally was given. I decided at that point the personal touch would be more effective so as the immigration office was near the car hire depot I decided to return the car then visit the office. At the immigration office they appeared much more sympathetic but the boss, who would be the one to help if anyone could, wouldn’t be in until today.

Back on the boat I pursued looking into the appeal process with American Airlines. We have a non-refundable ticket which we won’t use which we want refunded. After finding someone to talk to by calling the Australian American Airlines call center I was advised to contact their customer relations department. Looking at the AA website the only way to do this is via web form so I lodged my first appeal there.

I then had a beer. I needed it.

Very soon it was time to head over to Pier 21 to meet up with John and Pam from Passages. We hadn’t yet heard from Sam as our remaining worry was his transfer at LA onto the flight to Fiji. His plane was running an hour and a half late but his stop over was just under three hours. He should make it. We also learned he didn’t have to recheck luggage which sometimes happens. As what one airline accepts, another may not it was a relief to know this was not another potential problem or delay. So I took my laptop with us to Passages. At Pier 21 we checked the wrong pier and ran into Gary from Inspiration Lady with the Jacksters who’d all just arrived. Bumping into old friends is the best and it helped lift my spirits after the long day. We’re hoping we can all get together on Wednesday evening but that may not be possible. We’ll see.

We were soon aboard Passages with a beer in hand. I checked online and Sam had relayed a message via one of his friends that he’d reached the gate for his onward flight. There could be no more problems to respond this that evening so I could relax. After our beers we headed over to Squashbucklers, a local hangout for more drinks and something to eat and, of course, more sailors yarns. It was a nice place with a great atmosphere, good beer and food. I needed it.

Now it’s the next morning. Sam should have landed in Fiji and in some ways we don’t care if there are any problems. He’s in the right corner of the world. Whatever happens we can work it out (sing along), we can work it o-out.

Apart from an automated acknowledgement I have no response to my initial appeal from AA. I will make more attempts to contact them once I know to what level NZ Immigration will support us. Another visit to them today is planned after Sam arrives and we’ve polished off the bubbly in the fridge.

The large scale weather patterns don’t call for a departure for Fiji this month. There is one low pressure system heading this way that looked to give us a possible kick up north but there is then several hundred miles of a high pressure ridge (and hence low winds) to subsequently cross. Not encouraging. The next low a week from now which is project to be further south shows more promise. You can be sure I’ll be watching how the forecast develops.

Parua Bay

As you can tell from the title of this blog there is no suspense regarding our outboard parts and whether or not we escaped Whangarei. We made it out but here’s our day in a little more detail.

Early morning, Brendan from the Palmer Canvas came round to adjust the straps for our blinds. They had been made a little too long and needed an extra attachment to keep the straps tidy when the blind is rolled down.

Steve from True Companions took me out to sell off the power tools the French techs had bought and to fill up our propane tank. I got a few $$$ for the tools but nothing exciting. They were all bottom of the range and at best could be sold half price. And the store needed to make a profit so we got enough for an evening meal. Without wine.

The propane store was a little more picky than usual about our non standard propane tank. But they filled it anyway so we were set.

Upon my return I called the outboard shop to see if our part had arrived. Not only had it arrived but the outboard had been fixed. Yay. I lowered the somewhat flaccid dinghy and paddled over to the outboard workshop on the other side of the river. I paid the bill and we manhandled the motor onto the dinghy. The engine fired up, the throttle moved easily. Things were looking up.

Back on the boat Helen was busy washing the deck knowing that we were fast running out of time to use the dock water. I paid up our dock bill and handed in the keys.

Helen took a break from the washing to do a last minute shop. While she was out I sorted out our vodafone dongle so we had ways to access the internet once out of the harbour.

I then headed off to Palmer canvas to pay our bill. I was delighted to find the work came in under 30% below the quoted price. Full praise to Palmer for a job well done and at a great price.

After some last minute rinsing we were ready to go. Alene from Migration was passing by and offered to throw lines for us. Just at that point Dan and his kids from Division II arrived in their dinghy. Paige told us not to go. They had drawn some pictures for us to say thanks for letting them play on the XBox. That was very nice.

With the kids helping, Alene threw off the lines and we backed out of our slip, turned around then headed down the river.

We soon learned how sheltered it is in the town basin as further down the river we were encountering 20-25 knot winds and choppy water. Once we made a turn and had the wind on our beam I put out the head sail and turned off the engines. We kept going this way until we approached the entrance to Parua Bay. The entrance was tight with shallows to navigate and a dog leg off to the right into ‘The Nook’ before entering the bay proper. In 25 knot winds we picked a spot to anchor, dropped the hook and were comforted to feel it bite and set immediately.

In 25 knot winds we were not going to be going ashore so we settled in for a quiet afternoon / evening generally relaxing. We ended the day watching the movie Hugo which was very entertaining. The good news is that with all this wind, the wind gen is earning it’s keep.

The weather forecast is barely encouraging. Winds will soon switch to easterly but they’ll settle. The seas are currently rough. Around Sunday the winds are forecast to come from the northeast which may give us an opportunity to get out to Great Barrier Island. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make it south to the Auckland area for the departure of the Volvo race this coming weekend. Pity. But we’ll keep our eyes on the weather. It’s a fickle thing.

On the up side the sun is having a go at shining at it’s not raining. The wind is still up but the bay feels like it’s beginning to calm. Perhaps we can go ashore later today.

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.