Friday, November 28, 2008

Whangarei trip; finally leaving Opua

Forgot to mention earlier one more thing about the All Points to Opua Rally.  The winner of the “Biggest Fish Caught On Passage” was S/V ORCA 3.  They arrived in Opua just a couple of hours before the final awards dinner party and they had caught an 8 ½ foot marlin en route.  And they caught it on a hand line!!!  That amazed me.  Marlins like to run and will run a great distance for a long time and are difficult fish to land.  Could not imagine how they managed to wear down this fish and get it landed without a rod and reel.  Then a few days later Steve stopped by our boat and we learned that this was a black marlin.  The black marlins don’t run; Steve said it just floated up to the surface like an old rubber tire.  He said that when the fish was finally brought alongside the boat and they saw how huge it was that they were puzzled as to how they would manage to get it aboard.  They tied lines and halyards around the fish and used winches to pull it aboard.  Steve gutted it and cut away enough to fill their freezer and fridge; then he tied a line around the remaining tail one-third of the fish.  S/V THE DOROTHY MARIE sailed next to ORCA 3 and Steve tossed the line across to Glenn on THE DOROTHY MARIE.  There was enough fish left on the tail portion to fill Glenn’s freezer and fridge also.  So you might say that both boats caught this one marlin.  What a feat. 

Yep, the RadioActive people have arrived in Opua.  The 2 Canadian boats and 1 American boat that travel together so their kids can have playmates have all arrived in Opua.  But here they have a little problem involving their usual constant radio chatter.  In New Zealand you are restricted to only 2 VHF radio channels for ship-to-ship traffic.  We can converse only on channels 6 and 8 throughout all of New Zealand.  There are thousands of boats in New Zealand; at least 400 right here in Opua at the moment.  Obviously that means that these 3 boats cannot tie up the VHF with children’s chatter all day and night like they are accustomed to doing.   And you cannot leave your radios set to USA channels and use those because those channels interfere with the signal repeaters stationed around New Zealand.

Another tidbit to mention is The Yachtie Shuttle here in Opua which is sponsored by the Opua Business Association.  The shuttle is a large van seating 12 passengers.  The shuttle runs from the Opua Marina to the nearest small town of Paihai on Monday through Friday at a very reasonable cost.  You can also arrange shuttle day trips to the slightly larger and more distant town of Kerikeri for more extensive group shopping trips, and they tow a covered trailer to transport your purchases home.  The unusual thing about this shuttle van is that runs on used cooking oil.  It is called a “Frybrid” rather than a hybrid.  Fish and chips are popular in New Zealand.  Local restaurants and cafes that sell fish and chips donate the used cooking oil to run the shuttle and the shuttle owners filter it.  Do not know what other process is required to make this used cooking oil suitable for operating the vehicle engine but assume that something is required.  When they cannot obtain enough used cooking oil then they use diesel.  New Zealanders are extremely environmentally conscious people.

The wind blew 30 knots all day yesterday and overnight, and it has been steady rain.   Only good thing is that the wind in from the northeast instead of from the southeast; being from the north means it is warmer than usual.  This afternoon the wind is predicted to increase to 45 knots with gusts to 55 knots and rain will continue.  Should start improving tomorrow.  Friends left the marina the day before yesterday to sail southward to Tauranga.  Hope they found somewhere to duck in along the coast.  Would hate to be out sailing in this weather.  Very glad we are snugly tied in this marina berth; OTOH, we are getting a tiny bit stir-crazy staying inside the boat

Had my hair cut one day last week and the stylist butchered it.  Supposed to cut off 1 ½ inches and instead she cut off more than 6 inches.  Once she made the first snip there was no turning back; it all had to be cut off.  So everyone will be surprised to see me at Christmas with short hair.  And, no, I do not like having short hair.

We took a bus down to Whangarei on Wednesday afternoon.  This bus was arranged by the Whangarei Sailing Club.  We thought we could bail out of the bus and go visit our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT who are berthed in the Town Centre Marina in Whangarei.  But the bus trip was so structured that we only had 15 minutes to run by their boat and say hello.  The final stop was a nice dinner at the Whangarei Sailing Club.  We did not win a door prize this time.  Just as well since our boat is not in Whangarei and we don’t plan to visit and stay in Whangarei.  The topography seen from the road on the trip down there and back was spectacular.  New Zealand is gorgeous – the prettiest land we have seen anywhere.  We especially like the ponga, which locals call a tree fern; or what I would call a fern tree.  It is a fern that looks like some kind of palm tree.  Also looks like it is straight out of Jurassic Park.  Really an neat looking tree.  Haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else.
Whangarei has anything and everything that one could want if needing any type boat work.  We have never seen so many boat-related businesses in one area.  It has literally everything and most of it is within walking distance of the Town Centre Marina.  Whangarei is way up a river and is very, very shallow.   Egress is limited by tide times.  Not very attractive at low tide as it is muddy.   Glad we aren't going there because shallow water is stressfull to negotiate when your boat draft is 2.1 meters. 
At the Whangarei Sailing Club we received another Maori welcome greeting from a tribal leader.  It was quite moving to listen to this man recite ancestry and give us the Maori traditional greetings from the mountains and the river and the people and their ancestors.  The Maori believe there is only one Supreme Being for the entire world and all its people.  And that all your ancestors are always with you.  It is traditional for a Maori to always sing a song when greeting and welcoming visitors.  He sang a song that he said was from around 930 A.D.  He said the song was a welcome to us from the land ancestors and from the land itself.  Of course, all this was in the Maori language so we could not understand a word of it.  But it was beautiful to listen to.
Thursday was Thanksgiving Day and the Opua Cruising Club helped us ex-pat Americans celebrate with a special Turkey Day dinner.  The cruising club has been doing this for many years and they know how to do it up right.  This isn’t a fancy dinner because there is not the proper venue in Opua for that.  But they serve a meal that certainly meets traditional Thanksgiving Day expectations:  turkey, ham, dressing, potatoes, green peas, salads and cranberry sauce.  The yachties are asked to bring deserts.  Now, you would think that if people from 50 boats attend this dinner and each boat person or couple brings a desert that there would be far too many deserts.  Logic tells you that fact.  But the sweet tooth fairy must have visited the yachties because we managed to eat almost all of those sweet treats.  When we visited Whangarei the previous day the bus driver agreed to stop at a large supermarket for exactly 30 minutes.  This allowed me to buy some Granny Smith apples, so I baked an apple pie as our desert contribution for the Thanksgiving dinner.  Turned out darn good, if I might be allowed to brag a bit.  We enjoyed the meal and the evening visiting with friends.  Bill asked me at one point where we had celebrated Thanksgiving last year.  Took me a minute to remember that it was in the San Blas Islands of Caribbean Panama.  We celebrated Thanksgiving on S/V BLUEPRINT MATCH (now named S/V FREE SPIRIT).  We had lobster.  Man, does that ever seem like a lifetime ago and a world apart from where we are now.

Friday morning the new nozzles arrived for the injectors for our Yanmar engine.  The mechanic had them installed well before noon.  Both main engine and generator are running smoothly as ever.  The mechanic asked us to run each for about 2 hours today before we leave the dock, just to test everything thoroughly.   The $500 door prize we won was applied against the $525 of labor.  We spent an additional $1393 on parts and spares, including the most expensive cost of injector inspection/service which was outsourced.  None of this was necessary because we were experiencing no problems with either the main engine or the generator.  But having this work done makes Bill feel more secure about the engine and genset, so I am glad we had everything checked out.

Most of the various marine parts and spares that we ordered arrived on Thursday and Friday.  The few items that did not arrive yet will be forwarded to Gulf Harbour Marina near Auckland.  We plan to leave Opua tomorrow morning to start southward down to Gulf Harbour.  Last weather forecast we heard this morning indicated that weather should be favorable over the weekend.  Bill ordered new GRIB files this afternoon.  If the GRIBS agree with the radio weather forecast, then we will leave the marina tomorrow morning.  Which means no internet until we reach the next marina.  Wish we had more time to explore the bays all along the coast, but we have stayed in Opua so long that now we need to hurry onward to get settled into Gulf Harbour Marina.   Still have a number of things to do after we are berthed at Gulf Harbour before flying home on December 10th.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Opua.  This is the most hospitable place in the world for cruising boats. 

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