Archive for 'New Zealand'

Bound for Fiji!!

After only a week of being back in the water, we are setting sail! This week has been a blur, but it seems like a lot was accomplished. Dallas finished installing an SSB radio, which was no small task, and improved the dinghy stowage, changed out our problematic fresh water pump, and respliced wire rope into the main halyard. I finished provisioning food stores (including 144 cans of vegetarian food!) and sewed a couple of canvas panels onto the front of the mainsail cover to prevent the wind from blowing under it. He and I also got vaccinated for the nasties that are found in countries we’ll be visiting in the future–yellow fever, malaria (pills), and hepatitis A (round II).
Pura Vida is ready to sail

Pura Vida is ready to sail


On Wednesday Shiroma came on board, and she has been even more delightful to have around than I expected. Not only is she reflective, insightful, and positive, but she also loves to cook and is great at it! She has already treated us to some really nice dishes such as pasta with blue cheese/white wine/spinach sauce and yummy crepes.

Friends came over to say good bye on Thursday night and brought along heaps of feijoas for us to take with us. If you are wondering what the heck that is, it’s a fruit that is like a small pear but a little softer and more tart. Initially I was the only one eating them, and Shiroma thought they tasted like shampoo, but now that they are a little more ripe, everyone is getting into them.

A mini feijoa

A mini feijoa


We were planning to use the southwesterly winds predicted for Saturday to sail up to Whangerei to pick up Ash, our fourth and final crew member, but those plans changed. It looked like the westerly winds predicted for today (Monday) would provide a nice trajectory for us to leave from here. It also gave us a little more time to get our act together, which we needed! Anyway, Ash showed up today and is tired from saying his good byes but ready to go. We all are!!

Pura Vida Crew

Pura Vida Crew


This morning there was virtually no wind and a sky full of clouds, but the sky has cleared and the predicted winds have arrived. Customs came and went without any drama, we got our super cheap booze from the duty-free providores, and we are just having a bite to eat (thanks to Shiroma) before heading out. We are hoping to be in Fiji in 10-12 days but will keep you posted…

Back in the water

After another long week of repairs, fairing, and sanding, the moment that seemed like it would never come finally arrived – it was time for Lauren to start applying the bottom paint to the repaired rudders and keel.  By Sunday the final coat of paint was dry and we hoisted and blocked both rudders so we could reattach them to the steering mechanism and reconnect the autopilot.  It was a great feeling to knock the last blocks of wood out from under the rudders then stand back and see the bottom job and repairs finally completed after 6 weeks.

We did a number of other repairs during the week as well – replacing a leaky hatch lens, replacing broken wind generator blades, re-bedding a leaking manual bilge pump, replacing broken hatch handles, re-doing the plumbing around the pressure water system, etc.  The plumbing was a bit of a challenge, but we finally have a working system with both tanks plumbed independently through valves so that we can draw from only one tank at a time.  Ever since we nearly pumped all of our fresh water out during the passage to NZ, I’d wanted to isolate the tanks so that if we did have a problem with one tank during a passage we’d still have the other full of water.

I’ve also been doing some research on the new SSB radio (Icom IC-M710RT with AT-130) we bought while I was in the states.  It was a used eBay special at about half the price of a new unit, so I was anxious to see if it made the trip from the east coast to California and then from Los Angeles to Auckland without being damaged.  It seems to be OK, although we’ll have to wait for the final installation before we can say for sure. The installation is a bit involved, but doing some research, I’ve decided to try doing my own antenna setup (save quite a bit over re-rigging one of our two cap shrouds as an isolated antenna) and install.  Grounding is one of the biggest issues and I was able to find a nice long piece of copper at a scrap metal shop that will be ideal for grounding the antenna tuner to an unused metal through-hull.  Finding a nice piece of copper was a bit of a chore, but the scrap metal shop was definitely the right place. After striking out at several places I’d been told would be good sources I headed back to the scrap shop that Martin and I had visited several months before.  Not only did they have a long, thin piece of copper that we could cut to whatever size I wanted, but the sale was purely by weight, so we were able to cut exactly what I was looking for for only $15.  If only all of our repairs ended with a $15 tab.

Monday was the big day – splash day.  A 220 ton crane came out and after a short delay to get more line (it takes 20 meters plus the lifting straps to clear our mast), Pura Vida was airborne.  The crane hook had a swivel, so we were able to spin the boat while it was in the air by pulling on some long lines and pushing on the hull by hand.  That left us with our bow pointing toward the slipway entrance which made leaving easier than if we’d had to back out into the incoming tide.  It was actually smooth enough that I didn’t get the usual jitters with the boat hanging in the air.

DSC_1054 Look Mom, two rudders!

DSC_0010After spinning the boat 180 degrees by hand, she was lowered into the slipway

Both engines started up and within minutes of being lowered into the slipway, we were motoring out into the river to check out the engines.  We’ve been trying to diagnose a mysterious case of low oil pressure alarms on the port engine for a while now.  After buying an oil pressure gauge and not being able to find any issues, we’d essentially concluded it was a faulty pressure alarm switch when the alarm went off as Lauren and Martin moved the boat to the yard 6 weeks ago.  I found a bilge full of oil when I got back from the states, and it turns out the new oil pressure switch had signaled a real problem – loose fittings had allowed quite a bit of oil to leak out of the block and there actually was low oil pressure.  Luckily, the engine hadn’t been run very long or hard with low oil pressure, and I was able to turn the engine over by hand with the decompression levers set, so I was optimistic that there wouldn’t be any long term issues.  Other than a loose ground wire, we didn’t have any problems in the couple of hours we spent motoring about and waiting for slack tide to enter the marina, so we’re hopeful that maybe the oil pressure alarms are behind us.

We did venture out the channel and do a bit of sailing, and we were both surprised a bit by the motion.  You get used to it when you’re dealing with it every day, but having been firmly planted on land for so long, we both felt the effects of it right away.  Hopefully we’ll have decent weather for our passage north so we can ease back into being in motion all the time.

We don’t have a firm date yet, but it looks like the weather is going to be good for sailing farther north this weekend and by Monday we should be looking for a weather window to head to Fiji.  Lauren put the car on Trademe (NZ version of eBay), and we already found a buyer for only $300 NZ less than what we paid for it.  Given that it needs a $300 repair and we’ve owned it for about 5 months now, we definitely can’t complain.  Two and a half more days and we’ll be car-less again and getting ready to make our way north.

Mixed Feelings

The idea of sailing to Fiji is becoming more of a reality each day. After six months of preparation for cruising, the experience of cruising itself had started to become a distant memory. Now, as we begin final preparations such as route planning and provisioning, I am starting to remember why we’ve been working so hard. The photos and accounts from other cruisers about Fiji, particularly the western Yasawa group of islands, suggest that it is nothing short of a tropical paradise. I can’t wait to break out the scuba gear and get back into the warm, clear, and vibrant water of the tropics.

The downside is leaving this amazing country. Not only is it a perfect blend of natural beauty and 1st world conveniences, but after several months here in Tauranga, I feel like part of the community. I will miss my friends as well as the kiwis in general, who are “friendly as” (they add “as” to any adjective for extra emphasis). The people in stores, restaurants, etc. seem to remember and enjoy “having a yarn” with the acquaintances that they encounter each day, and as a girl from Kansas, I suppose I am especially easy to remember. I kind of enjoy walking into a store to hear jokes about the yellow brick road or having a friend refer to me as “Dorothy the Tornado”. 

I can’t say that I will miss the boatyard much (particularly sharing a bathroom with a bunch of men), but I can’t really complain about my six weeks here. The guys who work at Hutcheson are really nice, and everything that I required (hardware stores, friends, the beach, a yoga studio, etc.) was close by. For the moment, we are still here, but we (particularly Dallas) have been working hard toward getting Pura Vida back in the water soon. Time is of the essence as there is one last potential problem with the port engine that needs to be assessed while in the water. With two rudders back under the boat (one that was more or less reconstructed, the other that had epoxy inserted for extra strength) and a fully patched keel, we are almost there. We are planning on splashing on Monday.


rudder2 Daniel heating up a new layer of fiberglass on the port rudder

rudder Newly glassed, epoxied, faired, sanded, and installed!

Dallas and I took a break from the boat last Saturday, driving up to the Coromandel peninsula that extends north of the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of NZ. The first stop was Hot Water Beach. As the name would indicate, geothermal hot springs lie under the sand and can be accessed by digging a hole at low tide with a spade that you can rent for $5. We thought we were smart by arriving well before low tide so that we could sit at the cafe and have a snack before heading over to the beach, but it would have been wise to head straight there. There was a surprisingly large crowd of backpackers and kiwi families on holiday sitting in the hot spots. I took the liberty of dunking my feet into the pits dug by other people and found the water to be hot as, but there was no room left to dig a hole of our own to soak in. Oh well. I think we got the point.


beach Digging for warmth on the beach in autumn


The next stop was Cathedral Cove. It is easy to see why it has a reputation for being a place for young lovers to sneak off for romantic trysts. The view of the marine reserve and various islands from the lookout point were beautiful, but the cove itself, surrounded by sea caves, was really breathtaking and well worth the challenging (at Dallas’ pace) walk through the Coromandel Forest.


blue Typical NZ colors

cove Cathedral Cove

DSC_1033 Awwww

We were able to climb out of the forest and up a nearby hill to the site of an old pa (a Maori hilltop fortification) well before sunset. Clouds swept in and blocked out the sun, but apart from that, it was an ideal spot to sit and chill for a bit, with nothing but the cliffs between us and the sea.

DSC_1039 View from the pa

After dark, Dallas took the wheel to traverse the hair-pin-curved, gravel road to Coromandel Township. We were looking for some nightlife, but now that it’s getting colder, evidently even tourist areas like Coromandel close down with the setting of the sun. The offices at a couple of the motels that we were considering closed at 8, so after sharing an interesting vegetarian pizza topped with potato, pumpkin, and cream of mushroom sauce (apparently it was a first for the chef) and laughing at the antics of the adjacent table of men from the local “social club” complete with fancy matching jerseys, we headed back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.

As the time for setting sail draws near, we plan to post more frequent updates on the website and finally get my photos uploaded from the several months that I’ve been here. I hope everyone back home is enjoying the spring!

Digging out…

After a nice stop in the beautiful, laid-back surfer town of Piha, we headed back toward Tauranga and the boat.  Before getting back to work, we took one more day to do one of the NZ adventure activities that we’d been wanting to try – white water rafting.  We drove to nearby Rotorua to raft the Kaituna River, including the world’s largest commercially raftable waterfall at 7 meters.  It was definitely a bit of get-your-blood-pumping adventure in the beginning as the river is lined with rocks, cliffs and boulders and the water is rushing through at an intimidating rate.  The briefing on how to assume the proper position when going down a waterfall and what to do if you fall out going down a waterfall added to the anticipation, but after passing over a couple of small waterfalls in our 4.5m raft, we soon felt pretty comfortable and were ready for more.  The rafting guide even let us get out and drift in the river’s strong current for a bit, and I barely managed to get back in and partially seated before we slid down one of the several waterfalls.  The 7 meter waterfall was a bit scary at first as all you could see was a narrow portion of the river with rocks on both sides and then spray rising up from where the water crashed into the unseen river below.  The trip before, one of the rafts had flipped coming down the large falls, and sledging (essentially riding the river on a boogie board) was no longer done commercially on this falls due to frequent injuries.  After an exhilarating plunge, we looked back at the falls and didn’t see any way it could be as tall as 7 meters, but that’s the official number.  We could have enjoyed the river all day, but we were soaking wet and at the pick-up spot after about an hour, so it was time to head back to Tauranga and enjoy a little relaxation on the beach before digging into boat work the next day.

DSC_0987Beautiful surf spot Piha Beach

PICT0004  Hey, that helmet would make your head look pretty funny too…

PICT0011Lauren taking a swim

PICT0010 The big waterfall – the raft is 4.5 meters long

When we got back to the boat, there was one large task remaining to get her back in the water – another starboard keel repair.  There was still a bit of moisture left in the keel due to the previous owner colliding with a reef.  Wes’s repair from Block Island had held up well, but there was another spot farther down that was damp.  I drilled the keel, drained the moisture, and within a few days, it was dry enough to start the repair.  With instruction from the experts here at the boatyard, I first formed a piece of wood (timber or TEEM-buh as they say here) that would fill the gap that I ground to remove the bad areas.  Next, the guys at the boatyard epoxied the wood in, and I ground everything down again to fair it and to extend the exposed area to good glass on all sides.  Next the new layers of glass were applied, and I added a layer of underwater fairing compound.  Now all we have left is some sanding and painting and the keel will be ready to go.

DSC_0998 How’s that for an action shot – the keel with new glass curing

The bad news is that we found a bit of a rudder problem as well.  I’d already planned on dropping the port rudder to do a bit of lubrication, but I’d forgotten to mention to Lauren that the rudder has to be dropped while the boat is in the air during the haul-out, otherwise a hole has to be dug underneath the rudder in order to drop the rudder shaft all the way out of its tube.  So, I spent a good part of Sunday morning digging a 4 foot hole under the boat.  Luckily, the ground was mostly soft and sandy (I think this area is re-claimed shoreline), but the next day I definitely felt a few muscles that I hadn’t used much over the last couple of months.  The bad news came when we were checking out the rudder before actually dropping it.  We noticed that the rudder moved a bit relative to the rudder shaft, which is generally pretty bad news.  It usually means that the shaft is loose in the rudder and that rudder failure (a potential disaster at sea) is a matter of time.  Rudders are a custom and expensive item to build (having two built would probably be $5k-$10k), so it wasn’t a good afternoon.  I talked with the boat builder here at the yard and we initially considered drilling the rudder in a few key places to inject epoxy and stop the movement, but with so many sea miles still to go, I decided to go ahead and open it up to assess things a little better.  In the end, we found a really solid rudder construction.  Water had crept in around the shaft, but it was so well sealed from the wood body of the rudder that things were still in good shape and we were in no danger of losing our rudder.  Our rudder repair now consists of drying out the rudder and rebuilding the portion we opened up.  I’ve done some of the work and the guys at the yard have done other parts.  Hopefully we’ll have it back on and painted next week so we can finally get back into the water.

DSC_1006 How I’m spending my summer vacation

DSC_0993 The beginning of a week rebuilding the rudder, fighting back the tears.  Why do I own a boat?

In the meantime, we’ve been doing a number of other repairs as well, trying work our way through the list of things that need to be done before we can set sail for Fiji (hopefully the first week in May).  One of those issues is crew.  Wes’s contract position in the US won’t allow him to return until August at the earliest, so we’ve been keeping an eye out for potential crew.  It looks like we’ll be heading to Fiji with a Kiwi, Ash, who we first met in Tonga while he was waiting to crew on a Tonga to New Zealand delivery.  He’s a fun guy that we’ve enjoyed hanging out with and is working on yachting certifications, so the passages will be a good source of miles and experience for him as well as a good chance for us to have some fun and experienced crew.  We’re also going to be joined by Shiroma, a Sri Lankan girl raised in Germany who’s been travelling around New Zealand for several months.  Once we get to Fiji, we’ll be joined by Colin, a long-time friend of ours from our University of Kansas days who’s going to be sailing with us for several months.  The signs of fall are starting to be obvious — the leaves are starting to change colors, nights are cold, and the daylight hours are getting shorter.  We’re anxious to get back on the water and into the tropics again for another season of adventure.  Hopefully two more busy weeks will have us ready.

Back in New Zealand :)

After two months of work in the US and 28 hours of flights and layovers, I’m back in New Zealand.

I spent most of my time working in San Diego with a great group of guys (and Janet) that I’d had the opportunity to work  with before leaving on the trip.  After a year of sailing, I was ready for the intellectual challenge of some difficult  work and the boat was definitely ready for some additional repair funds.  A 10-12 hour day in a fast-paced engineering  environment working on everything from EMI and signal integrity to systems engineering was a pretty abrupt change from the  average day in the tropics.  Luckily,  I was able to adjust to “real work”, wearing shoes, getting up to an alarm every  morning, and the daily commute without too much trouble and ended up enjoying the experience. In the end though, I didn’t  quite love it enough to give up the trip & all, and my boss Mike’s plan to sink the boat and keep me in San Diego was  thwarted by us putting the boat on the hard where it takes a 50 ton crane to get it back in the water, so here I am back in  NZ.

Fortunately, my trip wasn’t all work.  I had a chance to enjoy several good experiences including seeing my first Cubs  spring training game in Mesa with fellow Cubs fan Ken Leo and his son.  Thanks to Ken’s mom for being such a gracious host.   My friend James from my KU days invited me up to the San Francisco bay area to visit for my birthday.  His birthday is  within a few days of mine and February get-togethers with him and Steve have become a regular occurrence over the years.   James and Jen were great hosts as usual and made what would have otherwise been a somewhat lonely birthday pretty special.   I was also fortunate to be able to visit my little brother Tim in Wisconsin on a weekend that my Dad happened to be in town  for a conference as well.  Seeing Tim & Heather, my nephew Jackson, and niece Harper was probably the highlight of the  trip.  It’s hard to say too many good things about Tim.  He’s been great throughout the trip — sending us supplies to  Tahiti, Paypalling us dinners out on the town, and just generally being his supportive, good-natured, and humorous self.   Jackson and I have hit it off since the first time I held him as a newborn and he puked on me, and it was really something  to be able to hang out with the little guy now that he can carry a conversation.  I also got really lucky in having one of  my best friends living just over an hour from San Diego.  I spent several weekends on Kopan’s couch relaxing and swapping  yarns.  In addition to sharing the condo with me on weekends, he and Julia took me out mountain biking several times, which  was also a real highlight of the trip.

Seeing them all again definitely reminded me how tough it is to be away from family and friends.  A year away from them is  a long time, but it’s not as long as two months away from Lauren.  We definitely missed each other quite a bit, and  although we both got a lot done over the two months, I don’t see us opting to spend that kind of time apart again.  Given  the amount of time we’ve spent together over the last year and the year at sea we have coming up, I’m thinking it’s good  news that we’re both ready for more.


Hanging out in Piha

Hanging out in Piha


For now, Lauren and I are taking a couple days to relax, enjoy some time together, and maybe do a little sightseeing before  jumping into the last few weeks of preparations for our departure to Fiji.