Friday, 16 December 2011

Bundaberg musings

Well, we've been here almost a month now so have formed some opinions. We would have gone earlier, but had to wait principally for the hot water cylinder to be installed and there are one or two other lesser matters we are attending to ourselves. The other major issue which is unfortunately having an inhibiting effect on our cruising plans is the lack of a working watermaker. The replacement pump we need has to be airfreighted from the US and won't be here until after New Year. We are driving down to Murwullimbah for Christmas and then might go away for a few days on the boat into the Great Sandy Straights/Fraser Is. area but will have to watch the water situation, and when you're used to the sheer convenience of a watermaker it's very hard to do without it because the primary disadvantage is that showers are not possible and in the heat.......!!!! If the guy from Open Ocean Watermakers was here right now he'd be over the side with 2 broken legs!!
We've looked at other nearby marinas to go to for a change but Mooloolaba requires 3rd. party insurance of AUD10,000,000 and we have NZD5,000,000!! We are looking at the costs of increasing it. Berthage rates at Mooloolaba, Scarborough (near Brisbane), and Tin Can Bay are all much the same as here. But it may in fact be better for us to stay here and if the weather settles do what we need to do with the decks before we go to NZ in Feb. Then we'd be free to have some shakedown cruising ahead of the sail north to Darwin after we return here in March because that's going to stretch us - nearly 2,500 miles in 12 weeks means being constantly on the go. The other way to tackle that is to miss large swathes of the coast and do a series of 3-4 day passages outside the Barrier Reef to improve our daily distance average. It all needs careful planning. And we need to haul out for antifouling at some point as well! But for now...........
The marina - there is everything here that we need with a hardstand just adjacent. There are all the services that one could need there as well. Although they are expensive; the electrician's hourly charge-out rate is AUD99 (NZD125)!! In NZ it's around half that. In spite of that they are all busy and there are waiting times to get work done. So, where possible that's an incentive to do as much ourselves as possible. Other than that the marina has a restaurant, a good chandlery, 2 fish shops and the office which has an ATM and the staff are extremely obliging. Faxes, photocopying, downloading and printing from the internet are all there. As regards the internet, once we got used to Telstra's peculiarities we have excellent access. And we have a phone! Sometimes it gets a bit jobbly in the marina as a chop can build up in the river so we have put rubber shock absorbers on our mooring lines to stop any "snatching" that had been happening when the boat pitches or rolls and which tends to wake you up in the middle of the night! Not that it's ever been a serious concern.
The nearest civilisation from here is Burnett Heads (2 kms away) where there is a small supermarket, P.O., chemist etc. And a pub!! The supermarket and the pub have a free service to bring us back to the marina with whatever we have purchased and on that subject the marina operates a shuttle bus into Bundaberg CBD on weekdays and up to 2 trips on a Sunday to the local market. All free.
On the subject of the market, we have come to the conclusion that here it's only average as far as quality is concerned. Nothing like Noumea which was far and away the best. A little more expensive perhaps but worth it. Here though so many things are cheap - pineapples $1.50 ea., mangoes (which are delicious) $1-$2 ea., cherries $8-$10 per kg., and sweetcorn 4 for $2 - just to name a few. But no pates, saucisses, or the vast array of beautifully fresh fish that we had in Noumea.
The City of Bundaberg is 20 kms away and accessible by marina shuttle (free) or regular bus ($7.20 for 2). The trip is across almost flat country with sugar cane everywhere. It is a pleasant place with a number of well preserved historic buildings and the pubs are especially noteworthy in that regard. It's clean and there are good inexpensive restaurants where one can have lunch for 2 (incl. a beer/wine) for around $30. NZ is generally much dearer than that. And excellent shopping - there is absolutely everything that one could need. There is a fairly primitive marina in the river in the heart of the city but very vulnerable to the river flooding. In last summer's floods much of Bundaberg was under water and one shop we went into pointed to a line about 7 feet up the wall where the water came to. By contrast the Port Marina where we are near the river mouth was quite unaffected although the whole marina floated up quite high. But it's out of the main river flow and the only thing that changes is the water level - just as long as the whole marina doesn't float off its piles!! No wonder they appear fairly high. There is also potential for cyclones but the likelihood of anything this far south is extremely slight.
Just upstream of the marina is the commercial port where they load bulk sugar carriers. It's much smaller than McKay though. That's where we walked the other evening and got bitten by the local midges who breed in the intertidal zone. These are nasty little critters because you can't see them and they actually excrete their body waste onto your skin. This dissolves a small area of skin which then enables them to bite and inject whatever poison they have. It seems quite potent because the itching that results is chronic and large red patches appear on limbs. In our case these are only starting to disappear almost a week later and they easily become septic because the skin is broken. A good insect repellent is a must and then a good antibiotic cream is necessary if you do get bitten. The other defence on the boat is mosquito coils which do seem to work. Insect screens (which we have) are not a barrier to these tiny midges. So we just have to put up with the chemical emissions from the coils. We hardly ever had a problem with any form of biting insect anywhere in New Caledonia but here they are chronic. And then there are all the land based pests like snakes although we are yet to see one. But the Australian Brown and the Taipan are deadly. Then there are the crocodiles which we will have to be well aware of when we go north. Don't know how our rubber dinghy would fare!!
To summarise, Bundaberg and its surroundings seems to us to be bustling and prosperous although most people say that sugar is generally in decline. However, there doesn't seem to be much evidence of any decline.
Local and national politics are volatile here at present and the big news in the past week has been the embezzlement of AUD16M by a Maori New Zealander employed by Queensland Health. Evidently he claimed to be a Tahitian prince!! They would have to be pretty incompetent to allow theft on that scale but it will do nothing for NZ's image here. This has done the state Labour government no end of harm as well and they are predicted to lose in a landslide in the next state elections.
Well, that's enough rambling for now - as always watch this space
Love from us.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Fw: Tiare Taporo III

This records some of the shoddy work done to our boat during its so-called refit at Waipapa/Kerikeri in 2007. We don't propose to say any more about it but we hope that it may serve to alert anyone proposing to have work done on their boat, particularly in the Bay of Islands, to be extremely careful. We are still in Bundaberg Australia waiting for our replacement watermaker pump. None of this would have been necessary had the supplier, Open Ocean Watermakers of Opua, been competent and above all honest. They were anything but and have fallen out with their Australian agents over similar issues. Fortunately we have found a stainless steel pump which we are able to use so the system will be reliable once that is installed.
Peter Busfield is the Director of the Marine Industries Federation of NZ and has replied to this email. In his reply he says that he has noted the various names and also that he will congratulate the Norsand Boatyard when he next talks to them! But none of the contractors we have complained about are members of his organisation so they are relatively toothless. The fact that they're not members need hardly come as a surprise! 
We can only hope that this warning at least saves someone from making a similar mistake.
Cheers again from us...............................

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Jim Donald <>
To: "" <>
Sent: Wednesday, 7 December 2011 12:52 AM
Subject: Tiare Taporo III

For attn: Peter Busfield
Hi Peter,
Not sure whether you remember me - Jim Donald -  I worked at "Busfields" around 1992-93 as a broker. Since then I have owned a liquor retail franchise on Waiheke Is. and a motel in Takapuna. Then moved to Kerikeri in 2004 and built a new house but unfortunately my marriage ended there and I brought my yacht to Whangarei for an extensive refit before finally embarking on  a series of offshore passages this year which is a work in progress! At the moment we are in Bundaberg, Queensland after a passage from New Caledonia and the intention is to go to Darwin next year and then on to Malaysia. Although we may go back to New Cal and Vanuatu before SE Asia - just another year in the scheme of things!
I have decided to write to you on a disappointing subject. It concerns the shoddy work that was done to my yacht in the BOI before bringing her to Whangarei in 2008. I realise that most, if not all the various contractors are not members of your organisation but felt that you should be aware of some of the issues in NZ's marine industry which are impacting on NZ's marine reputation generally. My boat is a classic 12 ton Gauntlet design - carvel planked 38' double ender. Designed in Britain in the 1930's by H.G.May and this one constructed in Wellington over 31 years being launched in 1978. Originally named "Reflections of Wellington", but I changed the name to "Tiare Taporo III" after a 110' schooner built in Auckland in 1913 for my grandfather, A.B. Donald who operated an island trading business in the Cooks and Tahiti for about 100 years until the 1970's when it was all sold. He died in 1922 and his sons and grandsons carried it on. I have been living on her on and off the hard for the last 3 years with my girl friend and this year we sailed from NZ to New Caledonia, circumnavigated NC and then came here to Bundaberg. The following is a chronicle of the work done over the last 3 years:
1) In 2007 when I was living in Kerikeri I decided to take the boat to Partridge Yachts yard at Waipapa to have work done to bring her up to scratch for offshore passage making. The work was to have included converting her to a cutter rig but they didn't understand what was required and that didn't happen.  Many things were either not done at all or were so shoddy that they had to be redone later in Whangarei. They built a fridge and freezer but it was so badly put together that an adjacent chart drawer was full of condensation from the freezer! Partridges subsequently removed  it from the boat in Whangarei and rebuilt it but this has only been partially successful and from expert opinion received since it appears that there is no vapour barrier and it will never perform satisfactorily. The performance of the freezer is still very unsatisfactory as it doesn't hold a sufficiently low temperature. So I'm faced at some stage with completely scrapping their efforts and starting from scratch with someone who knows what they are doing. There are many other issues too numerous to detail here.
2) Then there was the rig. Partridges stripped the mast and boom and then in conjunction with Northland Spars and Rigging put it all back together again with new wire rigging. It transpired that the mast fittings had never been constructed properly when the boat was first launched and when the boat arrived in Whangarei the starboard spreader was about to part company with the mast. It should never have been re-assembled as it was and at the very least I should have been made aware of the problems, particularly as it was well known that I wished to take the yacht offshore. The assessment at Whangarei was that the rig would never have survived even one Pacific Is. passage.
3) The final matter of note was a watermaker which had been supplied by Open Ocean of Opua while the boat was at Partridges. The main issue here is that OO used a brass headed high pressure water pump and other brass fittings which from information gleaned subsequently is an absolute no-no with HP salt water. The inevitable result has been that during our circumnavigation of NC the pump failed totally which severely affected our cruising plans. They claim that it's our fault for not always flushing the system with fresh water but we did do this most of the time and had we known how critical it was in view of the inherently unsuitable nature of the components we would have been more diligent. However, the fundamental problem is the useage of brass components and this has been confirmed many times by experts here in Bundaberg and Brisbane. The owner of Open Ocean, Terry Forsbrey has been appallingly rude and hung up the phone on me at one stage. He's even threatened to sue me for libel!!! I since made contact with his ex-agent in Australia (Brisbane) and they said he did the same to them! They are no longer his agent, not only because of this but also because of  his failure to honour warranty issues. I threatened to sue him but he knows this isn't going to happen because we are not in NZ and have no immediate plans to return. His business ethics are shoddy to say the least and the adverse publicity that he is receiving from his ex-agent and ourselves and no doubt other dissatisfied customers will be doing his business no good at all. More importantly, for NZ's maritime reputation generally all of this is doing a great deal of harm and we make no apology for our part in that because we feel a duty to other cruisers to warn them of the problems likely to be found with specific marine contractors in NZ.
On a positive note finally, we found more or less by accident a great company in Whangarei. This is the Norsand Boatyard where most of Partridge's work was re-done and other issues found and rectified. The yacht is now a true cutter and the performance is markedly improved as a result. The list of work is far too involved to go into here but suffice it to say that we have been totally saisfied with everything that has been done. So different from the Bay of Islands experience. In particular the shipwright at Norsand, Noel Barrott, has done superb work and he has a knowledge of wooden boats second to none. He has built many boats including 2 of his own. He has circumnavigated on both of them and for his exploits on the latter yacht he and his wife were awarded a medal from the Cruising Yacht Club of America - a most prestigious award. Later a similar award was presented to them by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club. 
This is a very condensed account of the problems involved with a refit that spanned 3 years and, had I taken the boat to Norsand at Whangarei in the first place, the total costs and time taken together with the considerable frustrations and eventual outcome would have been very different.
I daresay that there is nothing you can do about any of the foregoing but at least you are aware of some of the cowboys who are causing damage to NZ's marine reputation. For me, I am putting it all behind me as life is too short and I have a number of goals to acheive with our cruising plans while I still can.
With very best regards,
Jim Donald
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Bundaberg Port Marina
Queensland 4670.
P.S. My ex wife Sue (nee Tomkinson) was at school with your sister Pam and we used to see her and Garth whenever we passed through Whangarei en route to the Bay of Islands. They stayed with us up there at Paroa Bay on one occasion. Please pass on my regards to them when you next have an opportunity. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bundaberg weather and bumbling bureaucracy

Well, not sure where to start first. Probably the weather - it is now 1700 on Sunday the 11th. and we are cooking dinner (drumsticks in the oven) in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. Went for a bit of a walk earlier along to the port where the sugar bulk carriers are loaded - just upstream from the marina. There is a bulk carrier alongside at the moment; the "Doris" and they load the the ships by conveyor. Similar to the nickel in New Caledonia. We cut our walk short because we could see really black clouds inland and as we returned the rain was just starting so we made it without getting too wet. Had a beer at the cafe and then repaired on board for a quiet night in! But not so quiet at the moment; the thunder is massively loud and there has also been some forked lightning but at least our mast is wooden and quite a bit shorter than many around us. There are times when one feels quite glad to be smaller!!!! Still, it's supposed to clear later tomorrow and be fine for the rest of the week so that will be more pleasant.
On the bureaucracy front not sure where to start. We used to think NZ was bad but this place takes the cake - for sheer inefficiency as well. We'll start with sending a parcel of Christmas presents to NZ. At the Post Office we struck a problem as we were asked for a passport as ID - no doubt so that they could track us in case the envelope contained a bomb!!! We didn't have our passports with us but then they decided our NZ drivers licences would do. But not before a lot of toing and froing. Then there was the matter of sending by courier a letter to the UK. We naively thought that it might just be a matter of ringing a courier company and getting it collected - but no! Whenever we mentioned international on the phone you could almost hear the intake of breath as if we were trying to smuggle the crown jewels! We decided to use DHL but it took many phone calls (during which our phone ran out of credit) and visits to websites. We eventually managed to establish that Toll (of NZ Rail fame) where their agents in Bundaberg so the next morning we asked the marina shuttle if they could drop us at Toll about 3 kms out of the CBD. This address had been given to us by DHL. However, when we eventually arrived there it transpired that we had been given a bum steer and the place we should be at was in fact in town very near where we would have been dropped off on the shuttle. So, after a very bad tempered long walk in the heat we eventually arrived at Toll Priority - an encouraging choice of name!! We successfully consigned the envelope and fingers crossed it will be at the destination by Wed. this week.
Then there is the matter of the prepaid phone and wireless internet connection. We were completely unable to initialise either when we first started and it took another visit to the Telstra shop in town to get the problems sorted. They said they usually get people coming back. The problem with Telstra is that they don't have any competition - they are way worse than Telecom NZ. Anyway, since then we have had to recharge both and when we tried to use the credit card it was declined. Telstra's response was that they are conducting a security review with cards and they couldn't tell us when it would be completed. So, how to purchase more credit? We had to buy a voucher (with the credit card!!) which was then used to recharge the phone. How we get on when we are not within range of a voucher seller we don't know. Presumably we just have to purchase several in advance which means that Telstra gets our money in advance before they have provided the service. Perhaps they are not so stupid after all! And in the case of the internet it doesn't warn you that you're running out of credit; it just cuts you off and then you can't get onto the net to recharge on the website which is the only way of doing it. So you have to ring their help line and you get a Filipina operator in Manila you can hardly understand who can actually do the recharge for you - provided you have purchased a voucher. It seems that whenever there should be a simple way to do something Australian bureaucracy delights in making it as difficult as possible - if not downright impossible.
Forgive the rant but we have to get these things off our chest. On a brighter note the hot water cylinder is here and should be installed in a couple of days. And we have identified a pump for the deslalinator which will work but it has to come from the States by airfreight so that will add another $200 or so. Never mind, we will eventually get all these problems sorted and then will truly be able to adopt the laidback cruising lifestyle - yeah right!!
Went to the farmers market this morning with one Australian couple and two Spanish couples. It always amazes us how international this life is. Fortunately their English was much better than our Spanish.
Cheers from us....................

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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Bundaberg update

It's now over 2 weeks since we arrived here. It's Sunday morning and we are soon going on the free marina shuttle to the local farmers market. Lots of lovely mangoes, cherries ($10/kg!!) and stone fruit - the latter from the Stanthorpe region at altitude on the NSW border.
The weather has been very windy (up to 27 knots in the marina yesterday) but a bit cooler which is good. Doubled up all the mooring lines just in case. We braved the wind and walked the 2 kms or so into Burnett Heads and had another delicious reasonably priced lunch at the Lighthouse Hotel. Then the supermarket shuttle gave us a lift back to the marina. Great service.
We are hopeful that this coming week will see the watermaker and HW cylinder issues sorted as we have identified the appropriate course of action in both cases. Incidentally during that process we made contact with the former agents in Australia for Open Ocean of Opua and they had the same integrity issues with them that we have had. They are no longer their agents and are manufacturing their own brand of watermaker. The sooner we forget about Open Ocean and their shoddy dealings the better.
Hopefully we'll get some deck caulking done this week as well and then Christmas with Jean's friend Sara in Murwullimbah. More updates soon.
Cheers from us.....................

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