Friday, 18 October 2019

We left Tahiti after anchoring the last night in the anchorage area south of Papeete, near Marina Taina where we had to go to top up our diesel fuel.

It's about five miles south of the city and takes some effort to get to. It's a well-marked channel through the lagoon, but, any movement in Papeete harbour is controlled and all vessel movements must be reported to Port Control. Five minutes before approaching each end of the aiport runway you must ask for clearance to cross. Clearance is also required to exit through the reef via Papeete Pass. It seemed overly bureaucratic, but, you've got to follow the rules.

It was a calm day with hardly any wind, so, we expected to just motor the short ten miles over to Moorea, Tahiti's 'sister island'. It was an easy trip made special by seeing a large pod of dolphins at the Papeete Pass exit and then, on entry into the Cook's Bay Pass at Moorea we saw a large whale which surfaced very close to us. We were soon anchored on a very shallow sand bank with the most stunningly clear, turquoise-coloured water we've ever seen. We could lean over the side and see colourful fish and then a group of five very large  rays passing slowly under the boat, very exciting.

We were anchored just at the entrance to Cook's Bay (which actually Cook never anchored in, he was in the bay next door) with towering volcanic spires just behind us.

These volcanic spires catch the clouds and there is almost always a misty crown around the island. This was great because it provided cloud and even some rain showers which we were very grateful for.

There was also always a nice breeze and we began to feel some relief from the heat lethargy which we'd been suffering with on Tahiti. One sunny afternoon, we did a tour in our dinghy around Cook's Bay and neighbouring Opunohu Bay. We were anchored near Maharepa where there is a cluster of nice restaurants which were just a few minutes away by dinghy. We went to shore for lunch and a walk one day and rented a car for an island tour on another. We stayed five days and the rest of the time we were content to just enjoy the snorkeling around the boat, the gorgeous views and  atmosphere that surrounded us.

Moorea is only 40km around and has an excellent paved road. The driving was easy and the island lovely. There is no real town, just three, or, four clusters of shops/restaurants and many fine, low-rise resorts offering the usual thatched, over-water bungalows on the warm, clear, aquamarine lagoon. These pictures are of the Sofitel Ia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, on the best beach on the island.

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Our four week stay in Papeete, Tahiti was coming to a close and I can't say we weren't glad of it. As
mentioned in the last post the marina facilities were being torn down. Unfortunately, we were berthed very close to the construction site. Jackhammers, tile saws, cranes and earth moving equipment, along with their associated noise and dirt and dust clouds, were the order of the day, every day but
Sunday, starting at six a.m. The heat and humidity was oppressive, the sun beat down from a cloudless sky and there was  little wind to moderate the temperature, usually around 34C, dropping to the high twenties overnight. We were both suffering a severe case of 'heat lethargy'. I don't know if this a real medical condition (?) if not, it should be, it felt very real to us, doing anything at all felt like just way too much effort! We're hoping we'll acclimatize.

Papeete, despite our marina problems, is a vibrant, interesting place and we had managed to walk
around most of it (after dark, or, before seven a.m. when the heat was bearable). It seemed a bit behind the times, in a good way. The big activity for the many teenagers was doing bicycle 'wheelies' down the promenade while carrying very large, very loud 'boom boxes'. For boys, their dark hair was often streaked with a blonde Mohawk stripe which seemed at odds with the wearing of brightly coloured soccer knee socks, a different colour on each leg. It was an interesting look. There were excellent restaurants, in all price ranges. For locals the Sunday market, starting at 4 a.m. was a big event in their week, if the crowds were anything to go by. The freshest of fish, fruit and vegetables were on offer.

Despite Papeete's charms, here we were on the mythical island of Tahiti and we'd barely been out of the city.  We were very curious about the rest of the island and couldn't leave without seeing more of it.

Tahiti isn't a big island, only about 120km around and you don't need much more than a day for a complete tour. We could have rented a car, or, even rode the local bus, but, the temptation of a guided
tour in an air-conditioned vehicle was just too good to pass up. We booked on an eight hour group tour with Yota. On the day, it turned out we were the only clients and so got a private tour for the price of a group tour ticket, a nice bonus. Yota was a bit of a 'ham', but, a very nice young man from Japan. He's lived in Tahiti twelve years, he came for the surfing and never left. He took his guiding duties very seriously and obviously had put much time and effort into learning about Polynesian history.

Yota made the point, on numerous occasions, that even though Captain Cook always gets the credit
for the first European exploration of the South Pacific, he wasn't actually the first. The first in Tahiti was Samuel Wallis, another Englishman, the second was Bouganville, a Frenchman. Cook was actually the third explorer to visit. There was already a monument to Cook and recently, a Bouganville monument was also erected. The gorgeous Bouganvillea plant, that we all know and love, was named for him as he brought the first sample back to France.

We stopped for lunch which, unusually, was mediocre. Yota had wanted to take us to a nicer place right on the beach, but, when asked if there was anything we didn't want to eat, we said raw fish. Unfortunately, raw fish was the good restaurant's specialty and thus was out. We found that in most restaurants here, about half the menu is devoted to raw food: sashimi, tuna, carpaccio etc. and the local specialty is poisson cru, raw fish marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk.

 The tour was low-key and to be honest, there wasn't that much spectacular to see, however, it was a very enjoyable day out and we're glad we made the effort.

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Thursday, 3 October 2019

Our elation at a Tahiti landfall soon turned to disappointment. Things just didn't seem to be going our way. It all started with the entry clearance which took five days and first, a long walk to the Customs office, followed by four trips by bus to Immigration at the airport to find out that 'yes, non-EU citizens must do, or have, one of three things on arrival into French Polynesia:

1. an air ticket out of French Polynesia (even if you're leaving by boat)

2. pay a bond of $1,600 USD each into a bank escrow account and we'd get the cash back
on departure

3. produce a bond exemption letter after paying a non-refundable $ 330 USD, per person, fee to a yacht agent

We thought we'd pay the bond, problem was nobody at Immigration could tell us how much it was and how to go about doing it. We were told to 'just ask at the bank'. After a long wait over the weekend (banks close early on Fridays) and a patient bank clerk that made many phone calls on our behalf, we pulled out our bank cards to begrudgingly pay the money and multiple debit/credit cards wouldn't work, for some unknown reason. Now, there was no choice, buying a one-way air ticket to nowhere seemed ridiculous, so, we went with the bond exemption letter option. We got back on the bus to visit the yacht agency and to fill out all the paperwork we'd already filled out. They took over the process and we finally got our clearance along with intimate knowledge of the local bus system, all you need to know is that yes, there are buses, but, there's no schedule, you just stand and wait.

We needed a rest, so on arrival at the marina had booked and paid-for a four week stay. The facilities were reasonably ok and we settled in. A week later a notice was posted saying that renovations
were starting and the facilities were going to be demolished starting that very week. When we paid the advance payment nobody bothered to let us know that there were to be NO facilities available
until the new ones opened in December! Now, there was going to be no toilets, no showers, no laundry and worst of all, no internet. The cost for a four-week stay hadn't been cheap. We ended  up paying a full price that included all the advertised facilities and now were to have none at all. It
was turning out to be a rather expensive parking spot. Polite complaints were met in the office with
a typical Gallic shrug. We're just trying to make the best of it. There are compensations, like our
gorgeous sunset view of Moorea from our boat. In Papeete, real estate is priced depending on the
presence and quality of a 'Moorea view'. I'd say we have one of the best views available.

At night, the waterfront along the city promenade is lit from below and becomes a magical shade of aqua. They've made a small artificial reef adjacent to the sidewalk and it was mesmerizing to watch the tropical fish.

Some of the boats here are interesting to ogle at although they don't seem to go out much.

We were in dire need of a pick-me-up, so, when we found out that the nearby luxurious InterContinental Resort and Spa offered a  Soirée Merveilleuse  every Friday night with a special buffet and a traditional Polynesia dance show, we went for it. Our bad luck theme continued though. When we arrived at the hotel for our special evening we met a picket line at the entrance. Then, they couldn't find our reservation and we ended up at a really bad table with a rather large pole right between us and the stage. However, the buffet was good and the dancing excellent.

Traditional dance is taken seriously here, it's not all about the tourist opportunities. Many schools exist throughout the islands. In July, there is a month-long Heiva festival in Papeete where competitions are held and the participants come from many different islands.

Before the show started, we spent a couple of hours enjoying the grounds. Very lovely, with two
infinity pools, over-water bungalow accommodation and a 'lagoonarium' which is like a very large, outdoor aquarium with many tropical fish. In spite of the startup problems, it was a nice day out and we enjoyed it very much.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Thursday, September 5
end of 24 day passage Whangarei NZ to Tahiti, 2500 miles sailed
Papeete, Tahiti
17 32.3S
149 34.3W

After three weeks at sea on this passage from Whangarei NZ to Tahiti we only had 325 miles left to go. So far, we had been successful at trying to sail the direct, NE, route even though conventional wisdom had indicated headwinds might be likely. Once we crossed latitude 20S that's what we got. Unfortunately, the gribs showed no change for about a week and what was worse, if we didn't get in by around Thursday noon (this was Monday), we were in for much stronger winds right through the weekend. After a squally, rough, close-hauled sail to windward, in winds gusting to 37 knots, we were down to the last 120 miles with twenty-four hours left in our window before the stronger winds arrived. We were determined to beat the coming winds. So, on went the motor for the very first time since leaving the marina in NZ and we were off like horses heading for the barn door, directly to windward. It was a rough ride with a lot of water over the bow, but, our trusty 75HP Yanmar was very capable of pushing us along at 5 knots/2200 rpm. Moorea, the closest island to Tahiti was our first sight of land and what a sight it was with those incredibly jagged volcanic peaks.

We passed to the north of Moorea and once in its lee, the seas calmed and the sun came out. All was good until we started across the top of the channel between Moorea and Tahiti. We got blasted with 30 knot winds again and the rough seas meant we were pounding our way across the last ten miles. It was only for a short time though and once we were in the lee of Tahiti, all was forgotten. We entered the pass through the reef about an hour after slack water. There was still quite a bit of turbulence about and some slight overfalls, but, for our first reef entrance it went very smoothly. There were berths available at the Papeete City Marina and we pulled into one on the end of a pontoon with wide-open sea and sunset views across to Moorea, a stunning location and a good start. We're within steps of everything the city has to offer. Papeete (pop. 200,000) has about 80% of the entire French Polynesian population. We'll be visiting other islands and quieter places soon, but, for now, the city lights and bustle are welcome. There is a lot of traffic noise and there have been reports of thefts in this marina, but, so far, so good and we're happy to be here tied to the dock for a while.

Between numerous trips, on foot and by local bus, to various government offices and the airport to try and complete our entry clearance, which has been very tedious but should soon be done, we've had time to experience a little of the life here. It's actually not just marketing hype, many of the women here do really wear fresh flowers tucked behind an ear. One middle-aged lady sitting at a bus stop was wearing a beautiful, red, floral crown and even the post office clerk was wearing an intricately woven, fresh, floral necklace. The city reminds us very much of Kuah, in Malaysia, the difference here being that there are many very smart-looking shops that you might see in France in-between the older, more run-down tropical versions. We've been enjoying too much fresh bread and pastries. It seems everybody is carrying one or more baguettes. A man on a scooter had a bag of ten or so riding sidesaddle with him. They must be subsidized somehow because they only cost the equivalent of about 75 cents, for a very long, crusty, tasty, loaf. Within a few minutes walk is Vaiete Square, where every night, the roulottes (food trucks) gather. There are about fifteen of them set up along the waterfront with their outdoor woks and barbecues. Reasonably-priced and great variety makes it hard to choose! So far, we have enjoyed Thai and French-style steak frites. Many more things to look forward to seeing, eating and doing in the days to come!

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Sunday, 1 September 2019

Monday, September 2
20 42.3S
154 13.5W

A short post as there is no drama to report this week! Nothing broke (that wasn't already broken) and the weather wasn't savage. It's been good, we sailed 759 miles, 681 made good. We're only 325 miles out of Papeete, Tahiti now and hope to be in port within the next three days or so. Looking forward to some fresh veggies, baguettes and French pastries. There is a Carrefour supermarche in Papeete. If it's anything like the one we visited while sailing in Indonesia, we'll be very happy.

The week was a bit of a mixed bag weather-wise. There was a day of squally rain and grey skies, We also lost quite a few hours when there was no wind at all. We had some extraordinary stretches of good sailing, a couple of days where we never touched the sails, or, heading and just peeled off the miles directly towards our destination over a flat sea in a fairly level boat. Sailing as it should be!

It's also warmer and we've been able to open up the boat. Water temperature is 28.5C, cabin temperature about 22C. Even the evenings are warm enough to sit in the cockpit and admire the quintessential black velvet skies sprinkled with clouds of milky-white galaxies. One big disappointment is that we have seen very little wildlife: no whales, no dolphins, very few birds and only two measly flying fish dead on deck one morning. It is supposed to be whale season in these waters, maybe as we get closer to land where the whale nurseries are we might encounter some, it's always an awesome experience to see them, even just at a distance.

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Thursday, 29 August 2019

Monday, August 26
26 51.6S
164 39.8W

Another fairly good week, despite a couple of setbacks. During this second week of our passage from Whangarei to Papeete, we sailed 653 miles (563 made good) and passed the half way mark! Only 1,006 miles left on this 2,200 mile passage.

The week wasn't without its 'exciting' moments with both gear and weather. We also had an interesting mystery to keep us occupied.

First, the gear problem. Gjoa has two, hot-switchable, autopilot computers which is a very good thing. One stops working, you just flip a switch to use the other one. The only problem is that they both send steering signals to a single, continuous running hydraulic pump. If this pump stops, so, do both autopilots and we'd have to hand-steer (almost impossible to do for extended periods with a short-handed crew). It's too expensive and complex to have two pumps, so, next best thing is to keep spares in case of breakdown. As I have mentioned previously, we have done a lot of work on the hydraulic system and replaced its pump motor just a few months ago. We rebuilt the old motor to keep as a spare and ordered extra brushes and seals for the new motor. Lucky we did. The pump runs 24/7 and it does create noise. At first, this was a big irritant. Now, the sound of the pump humming along is quite comforting and lets us know all is well with the steering. Until it stops! Just before dark, there was an anguished groan from the bowels of the engine room and then, silence. Some quick troubleshooting led us to believe that it was probably the brushes that needed replacing. Sounds easy, doesn't it? The problem is the motor location which is in the engine room underneath a lot of plumbing and wiring. The motor has to be dismantled from the pump to get access to the brushes. It took G most of the night and a lot of engine room gymnastics to get the old motor out, the new brushes in and the motor reinstalled. By 0230 we were underway again, what a feat. That was a week ago and it's been running fine ever since. The brushes were down to 11mm and shouldn't have needed replacing until they were 8mm. The recommended maintenance is to inspect them every 500 hours. Easier said than done. Actually, with something working 24/7, five hundred hours is only twenty days, so, on a lengthy passage they are likely to need replacing. Now there's a new item on our pre-passage departure checklist. Replace autopilot motor brushes whether they need it or not!

Next in line for a little bit of excitement was the weather. It seems like we can never have a passage without at least one gale, no matter what ocean or where in the world we are. This passage was no exception. The barometer went from 1014 to 1002 in just four hours. We knew we were in for it. The gribs showed two separate fronts would be hitting us quickly over the next thirty-six hours, one after the other, with a brief interlude in-between. And so it was. The first one came on, the waves were huge. It was a shock to the system (ours), so we hove-to for a while. When the interlude between the two fronts arrived, the wind dropped down to almost nothing and we couldn't maintain our hove-to position any longer and had to start sailing again. When the second front arrived we just kept going. It was a crazy night, dark, very fast and a rocky ride, winds 35+ for twenty-four hours. We had another twelve hours of moderating winds to finish off.

The mystery came on the day following the overnight gale. We hadn't seen a single ship on this passage. Then, all of a sudden we had six AIS (automatic identification system) targets pop up on our chartplotter screen and we were right in the middle of them! It looked like a fishing fleet, the target movements were erratic and slow. When we got within two miles of one of them we were unable to see it? Ok, the seas were high after the gale, but, we should be able to see even a small boat two miles off? Hmmm.... The ship names on the AIS info offered a clue. The ships were all named Chun I NO.218-xx (where xx was two digits: 19,20,21 etc.) All we could think of was that there must be a mother ship somewhere that had dropped nets with AIS transponders on them. We did eventually see a real ship: CHUN I NO 218, mmsi 416174900 with a valid call sign. One of the numbered progeny had an mmsi of 81562542 and an invalid call sign of @@@@@@. We'll be looking these up when we get back to shore to see just what it was we landed in the middle of. Can very large (assumed), unmanned nets floating around by themselves be a good thing? Are they motorized somehow to trawl by themselves, or, are they just moving with the waves? How do they keep their shape if they're not being towed? How large and deep are they and what were they catching in them? All interesting questions. Maybe there should be a new category of AIS for non-ship objects like this? I remember the first time we came across a buoy that had an AIS transponder on it we also spent a long time scanning the horizon for a ship only to realize it was a tiny buoy transmitting the signal. Great that they can be identified so easily, but, sometimes confusing.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Monday, August 19
31 50.1S
173 48.6W

Violent wind, rain and lightning blew through Marsden Cove Marina the night before we left. We were heeled over while tied to the pontoon. The morning's forecast, however, looked great. One last 'minor trough' was going to pass through in the afternoon and then it was supposed to be five days of SW 15, perfect for our NE course to Tahiti (sounding too good to be true?). The best time to leave port is usually right after a low pressure system passes through, the idea being that it will be at least a few days before the next low pressure arrives. We've chastised ourselves in the past for not leaving quickly enough after a low passes. This time, we weren't going to fall into that trap. So, after a last minute weather check and a meeting with the Customs/Immigration officer, we left around 11 a.m. and made our way out to sea to be ready at the gate when the minor trough passed over. It seemed kind of rough and there was a brisk wind, but, on we went. At 1630, a weather bulletin was announced on the VHF radio for a strong wind advisory. The forecast had been changed from a minor trough followed by SW 10 at midnight, to 25-35 knots this afternoon, increasing to 30-40 knots (gale force) overnight and not abating before tomorrow afternoon! It was too late to turn around, so, we stuck it out. Our hopes were dashed for a gentle start to this passage.

It did eventually pass, but, not without making us cold, wet and miserable first. It got quieter and the sailing much better. As we approached the International Date Line (longitude 180E/180W) we had a full moon to guide us and we often were making a perfect course with good speed mostly under a second-reefed main and full staysail combination. Doesn't get much better. Our new solar panels worked really well and took care of all our electrical needs when the sun was out.

We only had one minor breakage, a batten car above the third reef came apart. Should be able to fix it as soon as we can lower the main. We ended up with a week's run of 738 miles (631 made good), not a bad start. 1569 miles(of 2200 total) to go. The rhumb line from Whangarei to Papeete is approximately 2200 miles direct. The conventional wisdom for this route is to head south from NZ to around 40S latitude where, it is hoped, prevailing westerly winds would speed you along to around 155W longitude (directly below Tahiti) where a sharp left to the north is taken. This route adds a lot of extra miles and time to the passage. We knew of at least four boats this year that had taken the direct route and they all seemed to make a success of it. So, we've decided to follow them and take the direct route, hope we don't regret it!

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Thursday, 22 August 2019

Finally, on August 2, after twelve+ weeks of waiting, our last new window was installed on Gjoa. Eleven of the twelve windows we'd ordered had been installed the week before, but, for some reason, we had to wait another week for the very last one. It wasn't too bad living without windows for the last three months. However, in the last couple of weeks the 'winter' weather here in Whangarei, NZ had taken a turn for the worse and any exterior boat work had to be squeezed in between torrential downpours. Anyway, we got there in the end and we're very happy with the final result. They look great, the level of tinting is just fine and we can see out the windows for the first time! What a difference it has made. The windows are 14mm thick, consisting of an 8mm toughened, tinted glass exterior layer laminated with a 1mm laminate to a toughened, clear glass 5mm interior layer. Hopefully, this will stand up to the rigors that boat windows can be put through. If we have the misfortune to drop sideways off a wave and smash one, the theory is that the laminate will hold the shattered, toughened glass together and at least we won't have a giant hole in the boat. This should buy some time, enabling us to effect emergency coverage of the weakened pane. We hope we never have to test the theory. Due to the extended delivery time (it was supposed to be 6-8 weeks) that has delayed our departure, our only disappointment is in not having enough time to trim out the carpentry on the inside of the boat. So, that's another boat job that we'll carry with us for the next go-round of boat work.

On the same day the last window was installed, our solar panels finally showed up. They were also overdue, three weeks, they had to come on a ship from Australia. So, it was a mad scramble to get those installed so we could be on our way. The supports had already been welded on and luckily, everything fit with a few minor adjustments. We installed two, 24V/190W monocrystalline panels and a Victron MPPT controller. Wired in series these will produce up to 86.4 VOC and we expect them to fully carry our electrical load, even the power-hungry hydraulic autopilot pump, while the sun shines. It was very exciting to flick the switch and see those volts start to flow into the batteries. The solar panels that came with the boat had never worked.

As part of the solar install we were doing some electrical measuring and found that the 24V alternator attached to the Yanmar had a significant current leak. Another must-do job was added to the list. A local electrician was able to quickly source a new one that would fit without major adjustment. As a bonus, it was an 80 amp alternator, an upgrade from the 65 amp old one. We'd have liked to consider installing a 100 amp, large-case alternator, but, that would have meant significant rework and we didn't want to delay our departure any longer. The 80 amp version was installed within two days. At the same time, we installed a new leak detector so we can easily and quickly check for any future current leaks. It's a bargraph and will measure anything between 1-50 milliamps. Anything less than 8mA should be ok. Anything above that needs to be found and fixed immediately to avoid any corrosion to the boat.

We changed the colour of our bottom and did new primer and two topcoats.

We added a new anchor, a Spade S160 to replace a stainless CQR.

So, that was it, we'd gotten to the end of our must-do before departure list. On August 9, we left Riverside Drive Marina, our NZ home for the last 4-1/2 months and headed the fourteen miles back down the Hatea River towards the sea and Marsden Cove Marina where we needed to go to refuel and check out of the country. The weather hadn't been good for weeks and actually it wasn't great for the next few days either, but, it looked like it might improve enough in the next week to at least get us started on our way to French Polynesia, our next port of call.

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Saturday, 20 July 2019

I haven't posted in a very long time, but, rest assured, we are still alive, well and as usual, very busy. We've been here in Whangarei almost four months now. The time has flown by! We've been working on the boat seven days a week since we arrived. We started with over 150 items on 'the list' and are pleased to say we've gotten through most of them. We hope to be heading off to French Polynesia sometime in the next few weeks. We are still waiting for two major boat items to arrive before we can go. Two new solar panels will be delivered this week, we're still unsure of when our new windows will be arriving. Delivery was supposed to be six/eight weeks. The templates were delivered to the supplier eleven weeks ago and we are still waiting for delivery, extremely frustrating. Living without windows hasn't been much fun either. July, winter here, is very rainy with frequent downpours and we're down to single digit temperatures overnight. We're coping, but, hope the wait will soon be over.

The main reason we came to Whangarei, NZ was to complete a few major jobs on the boat. The largest and most expensive job being to replace our windows. The boat is only eighteen years old and had already had its acrylic windows replaced three times by previous owners. The acrylic was so badly crazed that we could barely see out. We were unable to enjoy the boat's best feature, the 360 degree view from the deck-level salon seating. As we also didn't want to be replacing acrylic again in five years, we felt a glass replacement was our only option. It took a solid week to prise off the acrylic panels, scrape down the adhesive and make factory templates for the new windows. We will be living with no windows before the new ones are made. Luckily, we were able to fabricate some covers using plastic sheeting, duct tape and old, clip-on sun shades to get some degree of waterproofing. There has been lots of rain, but, only a few minor leaks.

When we first arrived at Marsden Cove, we had to wait a few days before heading upriver until a boat left the very full marina to make room for us. There wasn't a spare inch available, on the hard, or, in the water. That first wait was a sign of things to come. At first, we were like two kids in a candy shop. It seemed like there were multiple suppliers here for every possible boat service we could need. What a welcome treat after spending the two years since acquiring the boat in areas with no services at all. We were very excited thinking we could wrap up the jobs where we needed professional help in a couple of months and be on our way to French Polynesia. The reality was somewhat different. It's true that there are many good suppliers. We arrived late in the season and thought they would be winding down and have time for us. Actually, most of them were burnt-out, so busy and backed-up with work they weren't able to take on anybody else, just told us to put our name down on the list and they would get back to us when they could. We're not that good at waiting and found this very, very frustrating, but, there was no alternative.

At Easter, large numbers of boats starting departing with a small flotilla passing our stern almost every day at high tide. Most were heading to Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia, or, Vanuatu. It took a few weeks after that, most boats that were leaving had left and we finally got our turn. We've now been able to get professional-level engine, generator and outboard servicing done, some welding done, ordered some new, redesigned upholstery, had our rig inspected (not yet fixed), had our leaking dinghy fixed, had hydraulic hose with new fittings made, had some tricky carpentry done, had a chartplotter fixed (card reader had failed) and as mentioned above, ordered our new windows. In-between we have been working daily on the long list of jobs that we are capable of doing, including removing the electric toilet and all its complicated hoses and valves, replacing it with a manual, maintenance-free Lavac. We've also replaced the crazed acrylic in all the deck hatches and installed new nav lights on our newly-welded bow plates.

The South Pacific cruising season lasts until the end of October and from this location, we can leave any time a good weather window presents itself. In the meantime, we're celebrating each day, trying to work through the many frustrations and enjoying the small satisfactions as we cross each long-anticipated job off the list.
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Saturday, 25 May 2019

After arriving at Marsden Cove marina and briefly catching our breath after the tiring passage from Hobart, we headed up the Hatea River towards Whangarei town centre and Riverside Drive marina.  It's a bit of a different environment here than we're used to. We're far from the sea, fourteen miles up a small, tidal river. It's very quiet and peaceful, the wind never blows too hard, the water is never rough and so far, the weather has been perfect. We're located a short distance away from the town centre and the rather crammed conditions at the Town Basin marina. From our berth, we can enjoy a view both up and down river. Upriver, we look towards the town centre.

Downriver, we have a good view of the lifting bridge known as 'the Fishhook of Pohe' which we passed beneath to get to the marina.

At Whangarei, the water is tidal and shallow. Thus, it never developed as a commercial port. Instead, it has become a haven for international yachties. Over 400 international boats visit NZ every season. There are many that come back year-after-year, spending the NZ winter in Fiji, Tonga, or, New Caledonia, returning to Whangarei for the NZ summer to avoid the Pacific cyclone season and to work on their boats. The boat in the berth next to us is an immaculately maintained, sixty foot, Dashew-designed Sundeer. The US owners have been back and forth between the islands and Whangarei for twelve years! Another US boat in the marina has been here doing a 2-1/2 year refit. They were elated this week as they were able to finally move off the dock for the first time since starting work.

The Town Basin area has been redeveloped and is full of coffee shops and trendy eateries. The marina office, gazebo, restaurant and clock tower are central to the activity.

Flower beds abound and benches are many, a lovely spot to park yourself for a while on a sunny day.

The Hatea Loop is a 5k walking loop that runs alongside the river, around the basin, across the lift bridge and through the marina we are at. It's very popular with tourists and locals alike.We walk some part of it every day to get to the shops and suppliers in town.

At first, the weather was very summer-like. Now, we're definitely into autumn and the weather has changed, just this week, to a lot of grey skies and rain. It's still near 20C, so, we're not complaining, not too hot, not too cold, just right for boat jobs.

In-between jobs, we've also been taking advantage of a network of local walks that go a little further afield. The walk to Whangarei Falls went upriver through dense forest.

We could hear the falls and feel their mist before we saw them. The trail opened up to a perfect little cove with multiple falls. It was a fantastic setting in which to enjoy our packed lunch.

We've only left Whangarei once since arriving here almost eight weeks ago. Luckily, we've already seen most of the NZ tourist sights during our 2016/7 three month campervan tour, so, don't feel like we're missing out and are enjoying being in one place for a while. We took our first break from boat jobs last weekend to go to a boat show in Auckland, about a two hour drive away. We visited the boat show and did some shopping, then, on our last day drove to the top of Mount Eden. After parking the car, it was a very short ascent to a spectacular view across the old volcanic crater to Auckland Harbour bridge and Sky Tower. There are many of these old volcanic craters scattered about the local area, fascinating to visit.

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