Monday, 27 June 2011

Land expeditions

Yesterday the day dawned fine so we decided in a fit of ambitious zeal to walk from the Okiato side of Opua to Russell. There is now a mostly completed track which includes an extensive boardwalk along the Orongo Bay foreshore through the mangroves. We paid our dollar each as passengers on the car ferry which is like standing on a motorway across the water. Jim couldn't help nostalgic thoughts of the old Opua car ferry (which was always referred to as "the barge") and which consisted of a wooden barge capable of taking maybe 2-4 vehicles at a time with an old launch ("Miss Doris") lashed alongside. Access to the barge was by way of 2 wooden planks which had to be always re-adjusted according to the various widths of the vehicles. In those days Jim's family had a succession of Pontiacs which were generally wider than the norm so the planks always had to be shifted apart! Selwyn Deeming was the ferry skipper for years and years and Jim can still picture him standing on the barge directing his mother left or right so as not to drive into the water!! Later a newer barge had a hand operated ramp - a great advance!! The Deeming family have lived at Deemings Point at Okiato for several generations and once operated a respected boat building business there.
So, seeing that we were on foot we decided to call in and see Selwyn and his wife Pam and relive some of the old days. Selwyn is now 88 and he and Pam are very spry. He had an injury to his hand which had been caused by using a chainsaw just recently. He remembered the family very well and recalled how Jim's father every Christmas used to bring up a crate of strawberries and other fruit and vegetables from the family business, Produce Markets Ltd. That became a tradition for many years.
We spent a very pleasurable hour or so with the Deemings during which they showed us a card they had received from the Queen congratulating them on their recent 60th. wedding anniversary. We generally relived the past and then took off on our expedition. Initially it was an easy walk but then the track climbed over 2 headlands with steps cut in the side of the hills and it became a lot more taxing. At one stage Jim fell on a greasy patch of clay which was exactly like walking on wet soap!! Fortunately no great harm was done and we continued but at one stage left the track for a much easier section on the (now) tarsealed road. Then it was past Orongo Lodge which had originally been the home of the first American Consul to NZ when Kororareka (Russell) was the 2nd capital of NZ. In fact the 1st capital had been sited at Okiato and there is a brass plaque commemorating the fact. From there it was a bit swampy and we got wet feet which wasn't great but then there was a very long (possibly a couple of kilometres) stretch of boardwalk through the mangroves. These are not the prettiest of trees but at least it made a change from uphill and down dale!! Then a further stint on the road and over a fairly steep hill and we were in Matauwhi Bay with Russell not far ahead. Then past the houses Aggie Grey had once owned and the eventual arrival in Russell was very welcome. We fell into Sally's Restaurant on the Strand and had a late lunch. Jim had a Stella which hardly touched the sides!! We had been wondering about the best means of getting back to Opua (we sure as hell weren't walking!!) and had thought we might get the ferry to Paihia and then the Tuktuk to Opua but Sally herself (who lives at Okiato) very kindly offered to run us back as she was going home in any case. So, after another visit to Russell Radio and a conversation with Bev who happened to be "on" at the time we left and once back at the car ferry we headed back to Opua on the floating motorway once more.
Once back on board the "Tiare" we both went to sleep and then followed an early night! This morning the aches and pains (Jim's we hasten to say!) have dissipated somewhat but we have a sense of some achievement after yesterday's efforts.
After perusing the GRIBS again this morning it seems that the earlier weather pattern we had identified is expected to continue. So, it seems that our earlier decision to delay our departure to Friday this week is still vindicated. We'll let you know!
Jim and Gina

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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Still weatherbound

Well, we were intending to leave today; we turned the dinghy over and lashed it down and otherwise prepared the boat - advised Customs, etc. However, there is a gale warning in force for the Brett forecast area at the moment, and also after careful analysis of the weather maps it seems that there is a deepening low just to our east which is holding the large high over Australia in a stationary position. The result of that is that the isobars between the two systems get very much squashed together which means very strong winds - 30-40 knots mid week by our estimation. This area of wind extends well north and, although in the right direction, would make for a very cold, bumpy and unpleasant passage with 5-6 metre swells. However, later in the week the high is only just starting to move as the low finally weakens and moves away and conditions look much more benign. A fishing charter skipper we talked to yesterday reckons we are making a sensible call and he also said something we have long felt - that NZ is a very difficult country to leave from. So, here we still are and we would far rather make a good fist of leaving than than go out feeling pressured for any reason simply to go. For those interested enough you could have a look at the website we use for most of our weather forecasting which is They show weather maps 7 days out for all sorts of areas including the SW Pacific which is our area of special interest. We also look at GRIB files which we obtain through Sailmail. With these we specify the area we want by lat/long co-ordinates. These come through as weather maps on the laptop and will be our main source of weather information when at sea. These can also be specified to cover several days into the future.
This morning we said goodbye to a Swedish couple, Laila and Claes-Olof Kall who have a 42' Halberg-Rassy called "Comedie". They have decided to go and we hope to see them either in New Cal or Vanuatu. They very kindly asked us to drinks on board the other night. Their English is fluent which you certainly couldn't say about our Swedish!! As near neighbours we have a young English couple, Andy and Riann who have sailed direct to NZ on their ferro sloop "Zephyrus" from Ushuaia, Argentina! Andy is a mountaineer and has also been crewing on a youth sail training vessel out of Opua called "R. Tucker Thompson". Apparently they have to have an early morning swim every day, even at this time of the year! Apart from that there is still the usual international collection - Canadians, Dutch, etc.
Well, hopefully the next time you read a blog from us it will be confirmation of our departure.  We can't wait to head north on 331 degrees true - a distance of 890 nautical miles.
Cheers until then................

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Weather windows etc.

Dare we say it, but there looks to be a reasonable window opening up later this week so we hope to be leaving then. We should be getting W-SW for a few days - ideal. So, fingers crossed. In the meantime we are holed up in the Opua Marina which is getting quite boring as there is not much to do here. We frequent the cafe which is really quite good and there are a number of walks. Jim walked from here to Paihia the other day along the foreshore which was pleasant and we are intending to do that again either today or tomorrow, whenever the rain stops!! Our diesel tanks are full; all we need to do now is a bit of re-provisioning and top up the LPG. We can only do either of these things in Paihia so we will need to organise some sort of transport. Jim will be stocking up on as many cheese Kranskys as will fit in the freezer in a bid to stave off the awful day when chickpeas are the order of the day! We were joking again that with losing weight at sea all he will be in the end will be a wisp of white hair floating about, in and out of the ether!! Not much different from now actually - particularly the floating about!! Not so much of the white hair just now though because Gina cut his hair yesterday. We found an outdoor seat overlooking the wharf (very picturesque) and the deed was done. These outdoor haircutting expeditions always attract a fair bit of interest and sometimes ribald comment from passersby. Gina does an excellent job and it's far more enjoyable than sitting in a barber's chair. Couple of personal comments:
Anna - we now have a very solid handle in the head; thank you for suggesting it.
Russell - we saw "Glyn Bird" the other day. She's moored by Marriott Is. in the Waikare Inlet just across from the marina. The wheelhouse and all the superstructure has been removed so it looks like someone is getting serious about restoration. Just hope that she is rebuilt in a suitable and sympathetic manner as befits an old lady like her.
We'll confirm the departure date once things become clearer.
Cheers and love again from Jim and Gina

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Back in Opua

Hi again
Another update! We have had a pleasant few days out in the Bay. Anchored in Paroa Bay and paid a final visit to Jim's old neighbours, Charlie and Pam Solomon then went down to Te Uenga Bay last night. We had a good sail back in a light SW to Opua and topped up the fuel so, apart from LPG and a few more provisions we are now ready to go. In the last few days homemade pea and ham soup, corned beef with mustard sauce and tonight roast lamb - will be different once we put to sea!!
As far as windows go, Monday looks as though it could be a possibility but only for 48 hours or so. Thursday the 23rd. is looking much better with no close following lows. So, have to get on the phone again tomorrow to organise our Cat One and then it's a matter of some re-provisioning and we're off!
Dishes to do now and after roast lamb there are a few! Weather is looking a bit grim - there's a gale warning out for Brett with strong NE forecast. Still. we're snug as the proverbial bug in the marina and no worries with power and hot water. On that note the marina has increased the price of showers by 100% as they have changed the coin machines from $1 to $2. Typical of this rapacious bunch owned as they are by the Far North District Council; they obviously think boaties are a cash cow. We will be showering on the boat from now on - not because we can't afford $2, but it's the principle. The FNDC hasn't changed; when Jim lived in Kerikeri he was told that the price of a FNDC Councillor was $100,000!! Probably higher these days. They own a boatyard here in Opua and have been trying to use the Resource Management Act to put a rival yard out of business over issues of access to the property. This saga has been going on for years at God knows what cost to the ratepayers but happily it looks as though the privately owned yard will survive. Sometimes justice triumphs - not often though.
Hi Anna and Clyff on Koncerto - now that we're back in the marina we are finding that SSB reeception here isn't good so we may not have any communication until we leave. Hope your passage continues to be uneventful. Trust that you might still be listening on Russell Radio's sched when we depart.
Cheers all,
Jim and Gina   

Friday, 10 June 2011

Back on an even keel

Jean arrived back on the bus from Whangarei yesterday in the pouring rain so it was lucky that Jim had been offered the use of a vehicle by neighbours of ours here in the marina. It certainly beat walking down the Opua hill in the rain.
Anyway, the important news is that she eventually saw a cardio-thoracic specialist in Whangarei on Thursday evening and our worries that some sort of remedial surgery might have been needed have been dissipated. She has had a blockage of the airway into one of her lungs originally caused by some sort of infection which she thinks now she has probably had for some time. This of course gave rise to a lack of oxygen and combined with a natural inclination to low blood pressure, was causing the nausea and more importantly the tendency to faint. Neither of which are desirable traits on a yacht at sea!! The diagnosis has confirmed the Paihia GP's opinion and that the medication she prescribed was correct. Neither of us like the idea of pharmaceutical medication, particularly over an extended period, but when it's necessary to effect a long term cure it's a bitter pill that must be swallowed! She has another appointment with the Paihia GP (who incidentally is a German woman doctor) on Monday and then we will at least be medically all clear to go. Many thanks once more to Hamish and Sara for all their kindness in having Jean to stay while in Whangarei.
However, then we have the problems of finding another suitable weather window and getting our Cat One certification extended. We had dinner again in the Opua Cruising Club last night (but no gravy!!!) and met a yachtie from Nelson who is waiting to sail to Fiji. He made the observation that with all the information we have these days through the internet, etc. we are inclined to be too cautious about leaving as we tend to look at 7 day forecasts and see all sorts of reasons for delaying departure, when in fact 7 day forecasts are at best only a rough guide and the reality could be very different. So, we will try to keep that philosophy in mind as we assesss the weather over the coming days. The other issue of Cat One can be dealt with as we have been in touch with the inspector in Whangarei who is happy to fax a letter to Customs which they have already said they would accept.
Jim's earlier comments re Cat One still stand however in spite of "explanations" received from Yachting NZ. Why on earth should a safety certificate "expire" after only 30 days and in fact be cancelled altogether once the first overseas port has been reached? The clear inference is that, while NZ registered vessels are required to meet certain standards before being allowed to leave NZ, no-one gives a toss what happens after that. And of course yachts that are foreign registered cannot be legally compelled to obtain Cat One at all and can sail in any condition whatsoever. Lots of inconsistency here.
So, after Monday and a bit of re-provisioning we will be ready to go again. Just a matter of the weather!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Further frustrations

Gina went to Whangarei yesterday for her appointment this afternoon but when she arrived she was told that the specialist had been involved in an accident over the weekend and in fact was in hospital himself!!! And to make matters worse, her GP had not updated her contact details and so the phone calls and messages they had been trying to send to advise of the situation were never received. The GP, Bush Rd. Medical Centre in Kamo, had been asvised of her new phone number (which she has had for over a year now) several times but had never updated their records. Erique ( our French acquaintance)  is absolutely right; this is most definitely a BULLSHEEEEET COUNTREEEEE!!!!!!!
Anyway, there is another specialist available but not until 5pm on Thursday so she will stay in Whangarei with our friends Hamish and Sara to whom we are most indebted until then so that she can finally and hopefully get to the heart of the matter.
So, until then there is no further news - we will let you know once we know anything. But one thing we can say for sure - if we get no joy by the end of this week we will go to Malaysia where their medical system would run rings around ours - and that wouldn't be hard.
As always watch this space.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Storm warning in force

At the moment we're anchored just south of Matauwhi Bay and have had a fairly uncomfortable night with quite a roll coming round the point; talk about being rocked to sleep! Probably would be better in Matauwhi itself and we'll probably go back there. On one of the weather reports yesterday evening we heard that the maximum wind at Cape Reinga was 81 knots - averaging 68!! We had a few gusts in the high 30's and when one of these hit we were just washing the dinner dishes. It hit us sideways and caused the boat to heel so the whole lot finished up on the galley sole in a clattering heap but was ok because everything is plastic or polycarbonate - no ceramics or glass.
We are going into the marina at Opua on Sunday and Jean is going to Whangarei on the bus from the top of the Opua hill on Monday morning. She has an appointment with a specialist there on Tuesday and hopefully then we might have some idea of plans for the future - both short and medium term.
It's certainly been a wild and woolly few hours and it will be good to get back to some sort of normality when the weather quietens down.
On another note we have not had any joy from Maritime NZ as regards the Cat One nonsense. They still insist that we will need a new certificate when we finally leave again - might be some justification for that if we weren't leaving for a few months but sooner than that?????? We are investigating foreign registration for the boat in order to overcome this bureaucratic nonsense. All this puts us in mind of an expressive Frenchman we had met in the Whangarei marina by the name of Erique. He was very scathing of much that happens in this country and was fond of referring to it as "theeese bullsheeet country"!! Not far wrong, especially given everything that has been going on of late, although his own country is also far from ideal. It seems that wherever there are politicians...............well, don't let us get started on that!!
Now it's time for breakfast and then time to move anchorage. What excitement we have!
Cheers Jim and Jean (Gina)

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