Archive for February, 2010

It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t even been two weeks since Dallas left, but with plenty to do to keep me busy, I anticipate that the weeks will begin to fly by. I have struck a nice balance between work and play, with yoga falling somewhere in between. Dallas has been working some really long hours back in Cali but had a lot of fun mountain biking and catching up with his friend Kopan over the weekend.

Work for me has mostly centered around my own professional development. I’m trying to turn my dissertation into a manuscript for publication, as a first-authored pub is about the best resume builder one can have if trying to apply for an academic job. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll want want to do for work after this trip around the world, but as Dallas’ and Wes’ father (a professor of marketing) points out, being a professor has some nice benefits–namely free time in the summer for sailing!

I’ve also started trying to bring new life to Pura Vida by cleaning and buffing the gelcoat on the hulls. I can only access the port hull here in the marina, but I’m pleased to report that it is looking much better. I used acetone to remove all stains, marks from fenders, etc. and fiberglass rubbing compound to remove the “dead” layer of gelcoat, as recommended by Don Casey in This Old Boat. Since all of this still didn’t remove the last of the decal residue from the old name (Hibiscus), I tried a few solvents and found that kerosene and a scraper on loan from Martin (which ended up in the drink–oops!) did the job. I anticipated that I would have to attack the hulls with a finishing sander when the boat is out of the water, but it’s looking like that may only be required in a couple of circumscribed areas. It’s funny to think that in the time that I’ve spent lobbying for painting the boat here in NZ, I could have had it buffed and polished and looking pretty good. I guess Dallas earned an “I told you so.” However, I won’t be able to sand or wax the topsides due to the non-skid, so I’m hoping acetone alone will do the trick. There are definitely some discolored areas.

clean hull

She's shaping up


The boat builders at Hutcheson, the folks who repaired our bow, got back to me with a price for craning the boat out and back in the water. At NZ$800 for the haul-out and $15/day to be “on the hard”, at least we can be assured that this bill will be far less than our last one with them. I’m glad that I’ll be able to stay here in Tauranga for the bottom job and hoping to get ‘er done as soon as possible so I have some time for more kiwi-style adventures

I do have one adventure to share. Martin was entertaining a visitor from Austria last weekend, so he thought it might be a good time to cash in on his offer from Butler, who runs the “Swim with the Dolphins” Adventure Cruise, to be his guests for a day. I had received the same offer and had planned on going with Dallas, but since we never found the time, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. We left around 9 a.m. on a cool and overcast day with over 20 people on board including three children (two excited, one nervous). We motored out into 15-20 knots of headwind on Butler’s 60’ steel ketch that is painted metallic royal blue with sail covers to match. It took several hours to find the dolphin pods, so to pass the time, the old seadog (Butler) yarned about his days as an environmental activist, sailing that very ketch to one of the Cook Islands to protest the nuclear testing going on there. His activist friends were on the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace vessel that was bombed and sunk by the French in 1985. Anyway, Butler yarned and yarned and occasionally touched the wheel while his three young, female crew hoisted and adjusted the sails, went down to the nav desk to adjust the auto-pilot since there wasn’t a control unit at the helm, served all the guests hot drinks, and even checked the captain’s phone messages for him. He didn’t seem to appreciate their efforts when he barked at them and muttered something about seamanship under his breath, probably for our benefit. Hopefully they get paid well.


Butler at the helm


dolhphin watching

Spotting the dolphins from the hard-top bimini


Around 12:30, we had motor-sailed over 60 nm and finally found our dolphins! It was well worth the wait, as there were over 100 of them! There were several babies/juveniles swimming amongst the pods, so we weren’t able to swim with them in accordance with NZ law, but they surrounded the boat and entertained us with their acrobatics for over an hour. By this time, the sun had come out, and we had a brilliant beam reach sail back to Tauranga, stopping once at a nearby island for a quick snorkel. As the wind picked up and we reached 7 knots, Butler instructed the girls to ease the mainsheet a couple of times to control the heeling. Since I am used to cruising on a cat, the rolling and heeling was a fun novelty, but I wouldn’t have wanted to try to accomplish anything down below. All in all, it was a fun experience that reminded me to appreciate what (and who) we have on Pura Vida.


dolphins galore

Dolphins Galore



The juveniles were hard to photograph



But the adults were showing off



By the look of my hair, I'd say it was a good day out!

Making the Most of It

I’ve received a few emails of support and concern since Dallas left, and while it is always nice to know that people care, there’s no need to worry. I am safe and sound and trying to make the most of my time alone in NZ. I’m working a bit less and socializing a bit more, so that helps me keep a positive attitude. I figure that I’m going to have my hands full as soon as the boat is hauled out of the water, so I might as well enjoy my current free time.

I started off the week off being a couch potato for the first time in over a year. My friend Mel kindly let us stay at her place in Auckland even though she was in the States, so after dropping Dallas off at the airport, I returned to get some rest and motivation to drive back to Tauranga. As it turned out, it took several hours to muster it up. It was Waitangi Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by the Maori chiefs in 1860. The Maori TV network was broadcasting a special program that traced the history of the English representatives’ trip around the country attempting to obtain signatures. Naturally some chiefs were more interested in signing away their sovereignty than others, and much of this appears to have been related to the way in which the treaty was translated to them. Still today, there is no consensus of opinion regarding its implications. One Maori who was interviewed said that the chief of his tribe at the time of the signing was cognizant of the “Great White Wave” (the influx of Europeans) that was coming and found the Treaty with the English to be the best way to ensure ownership of the land. He pointed out that Maoris today fare much better than indigenous peoples of other countries such as the Aborigines in Australia. Their participation in NZ’s coalition government suggests that this is the case. Anyway, I really enjoyed having a chance to just veg out in front of some quality TV, but I would have loved to have been back up in the Bay of Islands that day, as representatives from all the nearby tribes paddled their wakas to the marae for a traditional feast!

Back in Tauranga, I was able to watch the impressive local air show from the marina and catch up with people via email/skype. When I told her it was already Sunday in NZ, my friend remarked, “You mean you’re calling from the future?!” 



The air show passing over the boat


I’ve hung out with Martin several times this week. I went to watch his team play netball, a game very similar to basketball minus the dribbling and the defense as we know it, since you have to stay 3′ away from other players. The ball (like a volleyball) is passed from player to player until it is in the hands of a designated offensive player who, without someone in their face, can be very leisurely in taking a shot, the catch being that there is no backboard. It was very fast-paced and fun to watch, but it would be more fun to be on a team, so I’ll have to work on that.

I also have managed to make some new friends. Martin and I went to a local pub Monday afternoon to watch The Who (Martin’s favorite band) play at the Super Bowl half-time show, and it was there that I met Matthew, an American pilot, and his wife Goril (pronounced like gorilla without the a), a Norwegian yoga/elementary school teacher. They are trying to establish permanent residence here and seem to have settled in quite well. I feel like they have taken me under their wing by telling me about local activities (e.g., the $2 entry at the hot springs on Mondays), inviting me over for drinks and introducing me to their friends, and last but not least, introducing me to Bikram yoga! I attended my first ever yoga class yesterday, and it was awesome. I was completely unprepared for the experience, though. I showed up without a towel or water and was pretty caught off guard as I walked into the 104 degree room, but Goril was an excellent instructor, providing personalized assistance as needed during the one and a half hour session of intensive stretching and flexing. I have never sweat so much in life, but it was surprisingly invigorating. I can imagine how cathartic it would be after a stressful day. I suppose that’s why some of her students attend class EVERY DAY!

Pura Vida hasn’t changed much since Dallas left, although I relished in completing some odd jobs–installing a bilge pump, tying the trampolines back up, repairing a broken anchor locker hatch, and marking/stowing the newly galvanized anchor chain. I also discovered that sewing might be something I’m capable of under the right conditions, as our machine is much easier to operate now that it has been serviced.

Leather from an old briefcase was sewn into the tool roll

I sewed leather from an old briefcase into Dallas' new tool roll

tool roll

Don't look too closely at the craftsmanship!


What matters is that it's functional, right?

What matters is that it's functional, right?

 These small tasks pale in comparison to the productivity of the rest of the crew at the moment. Wes landed a 6-month, electrical engineering contract position in Houston, and Tiff is in nursing school there. Dallas is already working 60 hours/week in San Diego and trying to squeeze them into 5 days this week in order to have some time to catch up with good friends of ours in Orange County this weekend. I can’t imagine a more abrupt transition to the working world, but he seems to be doing OK. Tired, but OK.

That’s all for now. I regret not having more photos to include in this blog, but I am uploading the rest of the photos from our excursion to the South Island today, so check them out if you have some free time at work or want some vicarious warmth and sunshine. ;-)

Leaving on a Jet Plane

The title of this blog is the only song that I know how to play on the guitar. I learned it in 1998, shortly before or after (can’t remember exactly when) I left to spend a year working as an au pair in Germany, and it has always been special to me. It comes to mind as I write this blog, as Dallas is preparing to fly back to the States on Saturday. He will be working for a former employer in San Diego for the next two months. We are relieved that he has this opportunity to pay our hefty NZ boat repair bills AND ensure that we will in fact get Pura Vida back to the U.S. despite the likelihood of additional costly repairs in the future. Nevertheless, it will be tough to be apart for so long.

I decided to stay here in NZ for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it is costly to fly back ($1,000 minimum), and the chances of getting full-time, short-term work as a psychologist are slim to none. More importantly, there is the work that remains to be done on the boat. Most major repairs are more or less completed, but someone needs to be here to facilitate the mechanic’s evaluation and repair of the port engine (thought to be a transmission problem), and we are overdue for our annual "bottom job". Each time I walk down the dock to the boat and see Pura Vida’s boot-stripe that is now merely speckled with anti-fouling paint along with the collection of dense, dark organic matter that is growing on her hulls, I am reminded of how ready I am to get hauled out of the water and give her "bottom" some TLC. If that isn’t enough motivation, there’s the realization that only these two items stand in our way of heading to Fiji soon after Dallas returns. So as much as it pains me to think of spending so much time away from my husband, the person to whom I’ve had constant access to share adventures, joys, concerns, observations, jokes, complaints, tears, etc. for the last year, it seems like a sensible and worthy sacrifice.sunset

Summer sunset over Tauranga

Dallas has been giving everything a once-over in preparation for his departure, but only occasionally has he reminded me of a parent who is leaving their young child (i.e., boat) with a babysitter for the first time! In fairness, we had originally thought that I would have to sail the boat overnight to Warkworth where there is a travel-lift large enough to haul us out. Undoubtedly this would be a bit of an ordeal for which I would have to recruit a little help from my friends. But it’s looking like there is at least one other feasible alternative (getting taken out with a crane) that would allow me to stay here in Tauranga. An added benefit of staying here is the close proximity to friends like Martin who can keep me from spending way too much time on Facebook!

Speaking of Martin, it has been fun to watch he and Dallas help each other with boat projects, taking advantage of their complimentary skills. Dallas used his electrical engineering skills to repair Martin’s autopilot remote and his sewing machine motor. In turn, Martin helped us by welding a bit of extra length onto our bimini supports and patching up our chafed mainsail cover.


I’m hoping some of Martin’s sewing skills have rubbed off on me. I spent quite a bit of time struggling with our sewing machine in preparation for working on the mainsail cover but ultimately determined that there were problems with the machine beyond its inexperienced operator. I’m looking forward to seeing how we get along now that the “Barracuda” has been serviced, and I have a faint idea of what I’m doing.

For those who are wondering how I will hold up here in NZ in the next couple of months, check the blog. I will be sure to update you on my progress with tasks, local adventures, and overall state of mind!