02-February 2011

Shakedown cruise to Abel Tasman

We had our friends Grant and Vanessa come down from Auckland to Nelson for the long weekend and we took the boat out for a shake down cruise to Able Tasman and Adele Island. (Good thing we had some people to motivate us, or I’m not sure we would of ever left our lovely slip at the Nelson Marina!)

Able Tasman is a beautfiul area, with white sand beaches and several walking tracks. We did some short walks. The 3-5 day Able Tasman Coastal Track is very popular, it is also very popular to kayak the area. When we came in it was blowing 30 knots and there were two poor blokes in a tandum kayak battling the waves and wind!

After having done some work on the boat in Nelson it was a good trial run to check everything out. We had alot of wind on the way to and from Abel Tasman. It was a great shake down cruise and a fantastic weekend.

Grant runs a virtual sailing school called NauticEd http://www.nauticed.org/ he wrote up a great blog about our weekend together, read it here: http://www.nauticed.org/blog/sailtrim/sailing-around-the-world-in-i-dont-know-days/

He also put together a great video. Check it out:

Leaving Nelson for good

This was a very sad occasion; we really didn’t want to leave! But after being at the dock for almost two months, we didn’t have a choice. We had to say goodbye to our friends Wayne, Di and Michael from Nelson and also our cruising friends on Silver Lining. Who knows when our paths might cross again?

Cruising through the Marlborough Sounds was very beautiful. We stopped at D’Urbville Island for a night and then went on to Picton. We encountered fog, for the first time and very gusty winds and the huge Cook Strait ferries that go back and forth several times a day between Wellington and Picton. Boy, you sure do need to watch out for them and not get in their way!

Cook Strait Crossing

We had been watching the weather for days to see when would be the best time to cross the notorious Cook Strait back to Wellington in the North Island. The Cook Strait is the area of water between the South and North Islands and it has a bad reputation, it can get very nasty. If you read anything about it you will read that Cook Strait is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world. It was a little nerve racking for us. Fortunately we timed our crossing perfectly. We probably had one of our best sails! There was a 2 knot current pushing us along, no waves, and 10-20 knots of northerly wind. We made Wellington in great time.

Windy Welly

What a vibrant, cool city Wellington is. There is so much to do. Chaffers Marina is right downtown, a hop skip and a jump from Te Papa, Wellingtons museum, a plethora of cuisines that we haven't seen in months or even years like Indian, Thai, Turkish kabobs, dim sum, Chinese, New York bagels! - we are in culinary heaven! We have been to the Wellington Zoo; participated in Chinese New Year Celebrations; saw the Bowl-a-Rama - the annual championship skateboard bowl competition; the Saturday market and the list goes on....

We were somewhat concerned about the weather, in fact even on the Chaffers Marina website, where we were staying it reads: "Living aboard a boat in Chaffers Marina can be challening at times. Wellington is well into the roaring forties and has the unofficical title of "the worlds windiest capital city" . Nor’ westerly gusts of 90 knots have been recorded in the marina during a “bit of a blow”. 40-50 knots is a regular occurrence. Never-the-less, there are those that have bought a berth for their boat, and applied to liveaboard, and do so with enjoyment, despite what the weather can deliver in such a wind accelerating area!” Then I happened upon a YouTube video called Wild Wellington

where a storm rolled through last December (only two months ago,while we were in Nelson) and it was so windy that one of the ferries anchor dragged and the beast was heading for the marina. So we were expecting the worst. Imagine our surprise when the whole week we were there we had sunny skies and calm weather. Plus they have free harbour-front wifi!!!

The other great thing about Wellington was that we ended up seeing our friends on Ceol Mor (who are living in Wellington for a year) and Artemo (who just sold their boat so I guess we can’t call them that anymore). We contacted both of them as soon as we arrived, it just so happened that Artemo had just arrived as well, but in their car on the way to the South Island and Ceol Mor was having them over to their place for dinner. So a fabulous evening was had by all! It was very strange though all of us sitting around a lovely dining room table instead of a cockpit! Well things change eh? We are going to miss you guys!!

February 19, 2011- Wellington to Napier, New Zealand - 205.5 nm

Passage to Napier.

This passage had to be very carefully planned as you really want a south wind coming out of Wellington for heading North. The weather can be very nasty in this area with high winds, lots of current and heavy seas. We decided to leave during some light and variable northerly winds with the wind switching to southerly in 12 hours. We started off motoring into a light north wind with very small swell and calm conditions and basically kept motoring the whole way. The wind switched to the south during the last 12 hours. We only sailed for about 4 hours during the whole passage. Once we passed Cape Kidnappers we caught a current that gave us a 1-2 knot lift all the way into the marina. We arrived 4 hours before our original ETA! So the toss up is 1. motoring for days on end in a boat that was meant for sailing or 2. sailing in crappy and uncomfortable conditions (I would vote for motoring anyday!)

Other pluses of this passage were the full moon which lit up our night which I just love, an amazing amount of wildlife we saw and the abundant amount of fish that we caught. We had never-ending dolphin encounters. You could see them jumping and splashing in the distance as they sped towards us, it is like they are saying “hey there is a boat, let’s go play!” There were probably 50-75 dolphins around us playing in our bow every afternoon. We saw albatross flying overhead, sea lions playing in the water, a blue penguin swimming by. Now a note about our fish catching. Normally on any given passage we catch one fish maybe if we are lucky we catch two. While in Nelson, Chris went gear shopping with Frank from Silver Lining who used to be a professional fisherman. Frank was throwing many items into Chris’s cart. Now the whole way we fish has changed and apparently it is for the better. We caught 4 albatross tuna, 4 skipjack tuna and 4 local New Zealand fish which I can't remember the name, 1 fish that I caught that I didn’t know what it was so I threw it back while Chris was sleeping (he was not impressed with this behaviour)! So now are freezer is full again with fish. Hurray!

Napier, New Zealand

The Napier Marina is small, very friendly and very reasonably priced. It is quite shallow, we had 6 feet under our keel at our slip. While coming down the channel into the marina, instead of range markers they have a tri colour light that you must keep in the white range, if you see red or green you are not on the right course. We had never seen one of these markers before and they are really a neat navigational aid. However on Stray Kitty while one person stood on the starboard side they saw one colour while the person standing on the port saw a different colour!!! What was the skipper to do?

We got our bikes out as there is a wonderful wide bike path the whole 3 kilometres into town (mothers love this!). It was fun to do the historic walk-a-bout to see all the buildings and try to find the zigzag lines, sunburst window decorations, motifs and facades on all the buildings.

Napier was the scene of New Zealand’s worst natural disaster. The town was levelled by a catastrophic earthquake in 1931 and then rebuilt in the popular styles of the time, art -deco. The town really makes the most of this as every second establishment is called art-deco this and art-deco that. In fact we arrived just as the Art Deco Weekend was ending. The epitome of this was when we saw a little car driving down the street with the big M on it called "McDeco".

Napier is also know, like many other places in New Zealand for its vineyards. The Hawkes Bay area has two of the oldest and biggest wineries in New Zealand. We have been perhaps too much enjoying all the different wines that New Zealand has to offer!

Opposum World. In New Zealand, these critters are a pain in the butt, nobody likes them and everybody you talk to wants them dead. In fact, when we were travelling through the South Island, we kept seeing these brown furry things on the road (roadkill) and couldn’t figure out what they were. Now we know. However in Australia these cute little animals are endangered and they are trying to save them. Why don't they just load them up from New Zealand and bring them over and let them loose in Australia? Would that not be a win-win situation? At Opposum World you could buy opposum everything, Chris bought each of the kids an opposum tail! Not sure about that purchase.

February 22, 2011 – Earthquake.

An earthquake hit Christchurch again today at 1300. We want to give our thoughts to those in Christchurch who are suffering again, this is a horrible tradegy and many people are missing. There is destruction everywhere. It is hard to fathom what the people of Christchurch are going through. We send our thoughts and prayers to everyone coping with this crisis.

Napier to Tauranga, New Zealand - 288.0nm

This was another passage that we had to get the weather right on as passing East Cape can be a challenge. As we got closer to the Cape, we were cruising along at 10-11 knots surfing down waves, however we had to round it and once we did that, the waves were hitting us broadside, not fun in a cat, fortunatley it didn't last long and after about 5 miles things calmed considerably and we even had to motor the rest of the way in. However there was more fun to come, during the night we hit a fairly extensive lightening storm, it rained, was pitch black and lasted all night.Fortunatley, we didn't get hit by a bolt but it was not a fun evening. The things we do to take our kids bowling!

We went to Tauranga for Andrea's 11th birthday party. She wanted to eat at Subway and go bowling. We stayed at the Tauranga Bridge Marina and after staying at very laid back marinas we found this one to be rather uptight. There was a lot of current in the marina and our dock and slip were covered in bird poop,by morning our deck was covered in it too. The convenience about Tauranga Bridge was that it is in the middle of the two towns so one day we were able to bike (and they have bike paths everywhere) to Tauranaga and the next day bike to Mount Manganui.