2010-12-December 2010

Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

We had a ton of fun in back in Opua with our friends on Artemo, Ceol Mor, Mojo, Silver LIning and Nikita.

Rae Ann and Dave from sv Nikita, Chris, Graham and Julie from sv Artemo

We had to go down to Whangeria, about an hour south of Opua to get the injectors fixed. We stopped at a little town called Kawakawa where their claim to fame is their public toilets! Yes you read that right. They were designed by Austrian born artist and eco-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He lived near this town from 1973 to 2000. We went and had a quick look but they looked way too nice to actually use.

We happened to find a steam train that took rides for an hour out of town and back and we were also there at the same time as their Christmas parade so it was a very fun stop. We even had a surprise visitor show up on the train.

December 5, 2010 Opua toManganoui,Doubtless Bay – 50.93nm

This bay got it’s name from Captain Cook when he declared “it’s doubtless a bay!”as he sailed in. This small fishing village had a self guided historical walk and it’s claim to fame is the world famous Manganoui Fish and Chip shop which knowing that, we just had to go and try.

December 7, 2010 Managnoui, Doubtless Bay to Port Taranaki, New Plymouth448.67nm

This was quite the passage, a very different passage than all our other ones. Our initial plan was to go up to the next harbour at Houhara Heads only 30 miles away. The weather was not suppose to be right to go down to Nelson for another 4 days yet.

However as we were motoring along, the wind picked up and we were able to get the sails up and sail for a change, we were enjoying the sail so much that when we past the point and it was time to turn for Houhara Heads anchorage, the wind would have been on our nose and we had a direct line to the next anchorage at Parengarenga Harbour so we decided to keep going. However when we got there we couldn't get in, we couldn't find the entrance and the sand was all shifty. It went down to 4 feet and we couldn't see anyway in, so we aborted and decided to head to the top of the island to Tom Bowlings Bay anchorage. Well guess what? That didn't work either. The wind was howling up there, so we just kept going, unfortunately, we had to tack back and forth, back and forth for days!!! All along the top of the North Island and then all the way down the west side because the wind was out of the south. Sometimes we were going 0.8 velocity made good to waypoint and the boat was making 6 knots over the ground!!! When we were one day out of Nelson there was a gale warning for the area so we decided to divert to Port Taranaki, New Plymouth. We had no idea about this place because it is not in any cruising guide.

It turned out to be a great stop. The locals were so happy to see a cruising boat that they went out of their way to be helpful to us. We were told by a few people in the harbour that we should try to find a mooring ball as the anchoring was not that great so we called the port control and they said we could use one of their mooring balls. The mooring ball that we chose was somehow totally not useable so I called port control on the radio and told them we just went back to anchor. Three different groups of people motored over to us and offered to help. One guy even got into the water in full diving gear to untangle the mooring line (Thank you Ash and friend) although it seems that anchoring there would have been just fine. The harbour looks very industrial but it is very close to downtown and convenient. It was such an enjoyable laid back town.

There is a lovely 7 km long Coastal walkway which was very scenic way to walk around the city. We visited Pukekura Park which is 10 minutes from the city and has 49 hectares of gardens, bush walks, streams, waterfalls, ponds and green houses or glass houses as the kiwis call them. There was also a Tea House, and Brooklands Park which was a play park and a petting zoo.

We also had a chance to see the excellent museum and art gallery. New Plymouth is an artsy town and they have the Len-Lye-designed 45-metre-tall (148 ft) kinetic sculpture known as the Wind Wand swaying in the breeze downtown. In 2008, New Plymouth won multiple awards as a city. The city was in 2010 chosen as one of two walking & cycling "Model Communities" by the government. Last but not least is the stunning views of Mount Taranaki/Egmont.

We happened to be walking by a miniature steam train that only opens on Sunday afternoon. We were there at just the right time and they give kids a ride for a coin. It was very cute. What a pleasant surprise all this was for us. Of course, a day out in New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without a stop to the bakery for a pie (not apple or cherry but a variety of different meats like butter chicken, steak and mushroom or spinach and feta).

December 13, 2010 – New Plymouth to Nelson, NZ in the South Island!) – 147.3 nm

The weather has cleared and it looks like we are ready to head out to our final destination for a while at least. Our friends on Silver Lining are out there somewhere as well so we will be able to talk to them on the SSB during the night.

The passage was fine for us but not for some other people who as we were about 2 hours out or port we heard a mayday call on the VHF radio that 5 people were clinging onto an upside down hull. They did not give an exact location so we called in to see if we could help but it turned out that we were too far away to offer assistance. It just give you the chills to imaging people clinging for their life in this frigid water. Everything turned out well as far as we could tell as the mayday was cancelled about an hour later and everyone was back on shore.

The other exciting thing that happened on this passage was that we caught a fish! Well I thought at first that it as a fish but when I tried to pull the line in I couldn’t even budge it. Chris finally managed to bring the thing in and we saw that it was a rather large shark with very big teeth. The poor thing had our lure stuck in it’s mouth and couldn’t get free. Both Chris and I wanted to get the shark in but for different reasons. I wanted to bring it in so it wouldn’t be in pain, Chris wanted his line and lure back!! He is tired of loosing all of his lures and lines to the fish in this Ocean.!! We did manage to get it on the back step and once it got tired, Chris very carefully stuck his gloved hand in the sharks mouth and was able to retrieve his fishing supplies. We were both very happy when we saw the shark swim away. The rest of the passage was very cold, rainy and uneventful except for a fishing boat that got too close in the dark of night.

Nelson, New Zealand

We are happily tied to the dock at the Nelson Marina where we will remain for the next month or so.

We don`t often go into Marinas but it sure is nice for a change to have water, a fast internet connection, garbage facilities all the time. Everyone can get on and off the boat whenever they want, the kids can get off and run around on shore. It`s great.

We bought a used van and a cell phone – civilization – here we are!!!!

When we were in the Galapagos in March 2010 we met a kid boat called Elsie who had lived in Nelson while they were getting their catamaran built. They put us in touch with many local people in Nelson that they knew. So our new friends Di and Wayne who live close to the marina have been very generous, helpful and very nice , they even brought us a tree for Christmas including a bag of decorations!! (Elsie`s Christmas tree from last year!!)

Every year we decorate our Christmas stockings, this year I couldn't seem to find the plain red stockings to decorate so Chris found some red spinnaker material which worked just as well but didn't have that warm and fuzzy feeling. Wayne and Di came over and we all had a festive time making them.

The local tradition here is to go to the beach and camp over the Christmas holidays. After we opened our gifts, we piled into the van with Silver Lining and drove to Rabbit Island. It was packed with holidaying kiwis. This is a pretty laid back way to spend Christmas Day.

We had Christmas dinner with our friends on Silver Lining over a leg of lamb, a turkey and all the trimmings (except it is the wrong time of year here for brussel sprouts), and some good New Zealand wine . Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! What a year it has been!!