Friday, March 27, 2009

Final week at Auckland area

Last weekend we drove up to Whangarei to visit our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT.  They are hauled out there for routine bottom job and Paul is doing all the work himself for the first time.  So Bill wanted to go help Paul paint the anti-foul.  Funny, we paid someone else to do all our painting but Bill goes and helps a friend paint his boat.  Go figure.  We enjoyed visiting with Paul, Michele, Merric and Seanna.  Gosh, those kids are growing fast!

 On the drive up to Whangarei we again saw a car parked on the side of the road with signs for Hot Fried Bread and Hot Hangi.  I understand the fried bread because many of the native American tribes also eat fried bread as a staple of their diet.  But what the heck is Hot Hangi?  We saw this same car parked in the same place the last time we drove to Whangarei.  It reminded me of the signs along Highway 6 back when our son Trey was attending Allen Academy in College Station and we would drive that route almost every weekend.  There was an old man and woman who would set up their truck or van to sell homemade foods.  Their 3 signs were placed equadistance apart and read:  Hot - Tamale - Fudge.  We never stopped to buy any Hot Tamale Fudge.

A small town we drove through had an unusual business or service.  It was called a Toy Library.  Seems like a worthwhile idea for a small town.  And New Zealand is filled with thousands of Mayberry-like small towns.  Look just like 1950s and the people are ever so nice and polite just like in the 1950s.   As the song goes: " If I could turn back time ........."
One of the small towns we drove through is nearby Orewa.  Orewa is probably my favorite small town in all of New Zealand.  It is so picturesque and has a very pretty beach and exceptionally nice playgrounds for kids.  Many, many small  interesting shops.  Also has a McDonald's, which are few and far between in New Zealand.  We stopped there for a taste of home, but even a small regular hamburger wasn't exactly like back in the States.  It did have the same frozen chopped onions, ketchup and mustard, and even had a slice of pickle, which is unheard of on a sandwich here in New Zealand.  They use sliced beets on sandwiches and don't eat pickles.  The difference with the McDonald's hamburgers was the meat.  The wrapper had a map of both islands of New Zealand and claimed it was pure New Zealand beef.  But like every other hamburger we have seen in New Zealand this "pure beef" patty contained bread crumbs or cereal of some sort.  So definitely not like a regular McDonald's burger back in the States.

While we were in Whangarei visiting Paul & Michele on Sunday morning there was a 5.7 earthquake here in central area of North Island of New Zealand.  Michele and I were inside the boat which is perched up on hardstands and neither of us noticed any vibration or movement.  I didn't even know there had been an earthquake that morning until the next day when I read the news.  Earthquakes supposedly happen in New Zealand fairly often.  There was also an underwater earthquake on Monday about 80 miles southeast of Nuku'alofa in Tongatapu Group of Kingdom of Tonga.  That one was 7.9 and a tsunami warning was issued by the monitoring center in Hawaii.  But no tsunami formed as far as I know, and the warning was canceled later that afternoon.

Also there were underwater volcano eruptions at 2 tiny islands called Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai.  This volcano or these volcanoes (not sure how many are involved) have been erupting for about a week and are spewing steam and ash more than 1,000 feet into the air.  The news video has been quite spectacular.  This is only about 12 miles from where we were anchored last October.  And just yesterday a volcano erupted in Alaska.  So the Pacific Ring of Fire is still very active.  The Ring of Fire covers from Peru over to New Zealand and north through New Caledonia and eventually through Hawaii and Alaska and down through California.  Earthquakes and volcano eruptions continue to occur in the Ring of Fire.  NOTE:  We experienced yet another earthquake while on our boat in Fethiye Turkey in 2012.  Same experience; felt like a car driving over small ridges approaching a bridge.

 BTW, I have meant to mention several times but keep forgetting it -- the area of the city of Auckland was formed by 48 volcanoes.  When we went up the Sky Deck on the observation tower it was easy to spot many of these old volcanoes, even though I don't believe any of them are active today.  I read news recently that geologists now believe that New Zealand was at one time actually connected with volcanoes with New Caledonia.  These old volcanoes have now sunk back into the sea, but at one time it was a continuous land mass.   That is interesting to me because I recently plotted our course to New Caledonia and looked at the depths for the entire course.  Certainly didn't appear to be any old volcano formations down there now because didn't see any "shallow" spots.  Just nice deep ocean all the way.

Wednesday we went into Auckland and picked up our liferaft.  It is now serviced and certified so won't have any problems when we clear into Australia.  Rumor is that is one of the things they check now and that your liferaft must have been certified within one year prior to arrival in Australia.  After we picked up the liferaft we stopped by Bayswater Marina and visited with Frank and Barbara on S/V DESTINY.  Probably will run into this again in Opua in a few weeks.

Today we turned our little Toyota car over to her new owners Ray and Fiona.  Ray and Fiona contacted us via the message board on this website a few weeks ago.  They had purchased a boat docked here at Gulf Harbour Marina and were moving aboard March 21.  They are moving from Australia and will be refitting their "new-to-them" Petersen 44 for several months to a year.  So they will need a car while docked at Gulf Harbour.  This worked out perfectly for all of us.  They had a rental car from March 21 until this afternoon, and we needed to use the car until noon today.  Like I said; worked out perfectly for all of us.

We will be leaving Auckland area tomorrow morning.  Our original plans were to depart this marina on April 1.  But winds are predicted to be 30 knots that day.  So we decided to bug out of here a few days early and begin working our way northwards to Opua.  The holding at Opua is horrible and we do not want to be anchored there in a blow, and the marina won't have a slip available for us until April 5.  So we will find a sheltered anchorage somewhere to tuck up before the winds start Tuesday night; then move into the Opua Marina on April 5, where we will wait for good weather forecast to sail either to Vanuatu or New Caledonia.   Might be no website updates until we dock at the Opua Marina.  

Don’t know where we are going tomorrow – just wherever the winds take us.  Looking forward to quiet anchorages hopefully all to ourselves.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Splashed and now to paint deck stripes

It has been a very quiet week for us.  BeBe was splashed last Thursday morning.  Very glad they got us in the water quickly that morning because a few hours later the winds were howling again.  It was so nice to be tucked into our slip during the dreary rain and whistling wind instead of perched up in the boatyard. 

Today, a full week later, the shop sent a worker over to our slip and he applied the white strip in the groove of the dark brown rub rail down the sides of the boat.  Glad to have that replaced.  The rigger is supposed to be here this afternoon or tomorrow morning to install our newly re-chromed turnbuckles.  Then all haul-out projects will be completed.  We would have liked to have the large foam bumper on the stern re-painted, but they do not sell that type of paint in New Zealand.  This bumper is made of closed-cell foam, just like swimming pool floats and some boat cockpit cushions.  In the States they sell the touch-up paint so you can re-paint little nicks and chips or scratches.  Our bumper looks pretty tacky but not bad enough that we are willing to pay the ridiculous price of having a new one shipped from France.  So guess we will live with it looking tacky until we can find the correct touch-up paint.  I'm thinking maybe an empty opaque shampoo bottle will make an excellent way to transport a small quantity of this paint when we next fly home to the States.

The only remaining New Zealand project that I can think of is to re-paint the brownish-black stripes on our deck.  As I have mentioned before in our blogs, our deck is made from fiberglass instead of teak.  Amel built a wooden deck to fit this model boat and then made a mold.  They use this mold to make a fiberglass deck, all in one piece so there are no leaks whatsoever.  The "slats" have a wood texture and are non-skid.  Amel paints brownish-black stripes between the slats so that the overall brown deck with the stripes appear very similar to a normal teak deck -- except ours does not leak and requires virtually no maintenance like a normal teak deck does.  However (you know there is always a "however"),  those painted stripes do eventually wear off and require re-painting.  Our boat has spent 6 years in tropical sunlight and the stripes are looking pretty tired. 

It is not possible to buy the correct color paint, so Bill bought red, green and white paints.  He mixed these 3 colors to produce a deep, dark chocolate brown.  When we last visited Houston we made a trip to Texas Art Supply on Montrose and purchase a tiny striping wheel with a tiny reservoir.  I will be using that to paint the stripes on the deck.  Bill wants to do this job but I told him that I have much more experience painting fingernails for decades, so this paint job in tiny spaces should be done by me.  Not looking forward to this job and will be very glad when it is finished.  Late yesterday afternoon we did our first experiment with the striping wheel on a forward deck locker.  The paint color is perfect.  My application skills are not.  

Hoping that like many other things this becomes easier with practice.

NOTE:  The stripes were the perfect chocolate-black color when first applied.  But after one year in the tropical sun those stripes slowly faded to be green.  Now must be re-painted again when we eventually find the right color paint.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hauled out on the day a gale hits Auckland

Date Range:  2009-02-18 to  03-11

Title:  Hauled out on the day a gale hits Auckland

“Gale force winds with gusts of 120 kilometres an hour are forecast for Auckland from the early hours of Saturday to the afternoon.”  This was reported by the New Zealand Herald online on our first afternoon in the boatyard on Feb 27th.  This was not the forecast when we hauled earlier that morning, or we would have rescheduled the haul-out for Monday morning.  Heck, that is 72 miles per hour!  And our boat is jacked up pretty high from the ground.  But at least it is in a cradle so that is somewhat reassuring – we can’t fall too far.  As soon as I got online and read about the coming gale we secured everything on top of and around our boat.  Don’t want any flying missiles.

Bill and I worked all afternoon on routine boat maintenance projects.  Actually, it was more Bill working and me holding things and fetching things.  We pulled the Autoprop and took it to a shop to be acid-cleaned and serviced.  Then we drained the oil from the prop shaft gearbox and changed the bushings and seals on the prop shaft.  That sounds like nothing, but it is a detailed process.  Shortly thereafter Bill was internet surfing and learned that there had been an Autoprop factory recall for props falling within a certain serial number range.  Our prop serial number was included in that recall notice.  We could always install the regular Amel prop if our Autoprop needed a part replaced and it could not be finished while we are out of the water for this haul-out.  But we prefer sailing with the Autoprop rather than a standard prop because the Autoprop causes less drag from the prop blades.  A few emails later we learned that our particular Autoprop had already had the correct nut installed by the manufacturer, so that was needless worrying.

The winds and rain started in earnest just before sunset on Friday afternoon and lasted until early Sunday morning.  However, the winds were not nearly as strong as had been predicted.  The highest winds we saw were 42 mph and that was plenty.  The boat made all kinds of creepy noises and little movements but at no time were we worried about the boat being blown over.  Nice that the temperature is so wonderful here in New Zealand so we were not shut up inside a hot stuffy boat during the rain.  It was quite comfortable and we watched DVDs and read books.  Saturday afternoon we ventured out for a movie and pizza.

Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day and we tackled the bow thruster project.  The boatyard is closed on weekends and that was the whole point in hauling on a Friday morning; so we could do what we needed to work on before the paint shop starts on the routine bottom job on Monday.  Amel’s routine maintenance calls for the bow thruster to be removed and the oil changed every 2 years, same as the Autoprop and the gearbox oil.  The hub for the bow thruster prop also should be replaced every 2 years.  Bill had ordered the parts from Amel and we were ready to tackle this job.  Removing the bow thruster prop and replacing the hub and prop was easy.  However the carbon fiber tube of the bow thruster was cemented to the motor with unseen corrosion.  We tried every method you can imagine to separate these two.  After MUCH effort over 5 hours we finally succeeded.  Whew!!! The bow thruster was finally removed so we could drain and replace the oil.  When we reassemble this thing we will use the best anti-corrosion coating we can find.  This job was a snap the last time we did it; came apart easily just as it was designed to do.  It was a murderous job this time around.  As your grandmother must have said:  an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Definitely using anti-corrosion coating when reassembling this thing.

Monday morning the rigger arrived and removed the turnbuckles to be sent out to be re-chromed.  He offered to replace the turnbuckles for the same price but I vetoed that idea.  We don’t know the metal quality of the turnbuckles available locally; we know the current turnbuckles installed by Amel are solid bronze with chrome coating and should last a minimum of 15 years.  The original turnbuckles show no signs of wear or stress cracks and I would prefer to keep them.  These turnbuckles were discolored when a worker in Trinidad got acid on them and this discoloration has bothered Bill ever since.  It will be nice to have them shiny again.  I don’t care if they are shiny as long as they function properly, but Bill likes them shiny so that will please him.

Then the painting company crew arrived and began by acid-washing the hull.  That was the final bit of work that could be performed for several days because high winds and rain again set in.  The weather gods are not favoring us during this haul-out.

March 9, 2009  Tuesday

High winds and then rain.  High winds and then rain.  Over and over again.  Makes for a long haul-out.  Amel uses a cast iron keel, not a lead or lead pellet keel like most boat manufacturers.  The cast iron is encapsulated in epoxy and then painted with anti-foul paint.  When we were last hauled out they touched up the epoxy where it had been scraped slightly on one side of the foot of the keel.  Unfortunately they either used the wrong epoxy product or applied it incorrectly or under improper weather conditions, because when we got the boat out of the water we could see that the touch-up epoxy was separating from the original epoxy.  So that needed to be repaired in a couple of small spots.  

Amel recommends that all the epoxy be removed and replaced every 10 years, and BeBe reached 6 years of age a couple of months ago.  Since we are in an English-speaking country with skilled workers and the correct products available, we decided to take this opportunity to replace all the epoxy a few years early.  We have been very impressed by the quality of work by Touch of Gloss here at Gulf Harbour.  They ground down the epoxy on the entire keel to bare metal and immediately applied a gray epoxy primer paint.  It is important that this be done within minutes of sanding or rust will start to grow at a microscopic level and the epoxy will separate after some time.  I am sure that is what happened when the touch-up epoxy was applied in the Caribbean.  Next they applied a thick coating of pink epoxy and sanded that smooth.  Then an application of white epoxy paint.  Then they faired a few spots with more of the pink epoxy and again sanded smooth.  Then another application of the white epoxy paint.  The final coatings will be the anti-foul paint.  Before they applied each of these epoxy coatings they would measure the temperature of the keel and the air humidity level.  The epoxy should not be applied if either of these are not in the correct range.  That is what has delayed this haul-out so much.  The weather has been unseasonably cool and humid (for New Zealand).  I don’t know how this epoxy ever gets applied in the correct conditions in the Caribbean, especially Trinidad, Cartagena and Panama where the high humidity levels rival that in Houston.

This morning the anti-foul paint was finally sprayed on BeBe’s bottom.  This marks a major accomplishment and a big step towards completing this haul-out.  Only 4 more projects for the painting shop crew to do for us:  cut and polish the hull; apply new white line inside the brown rub-rail around the top edge of the hull; apply Prop Speed to hopefully delay future marine growth on the Autoprop; and the final sudsy wash just before the travel lift moves us back to splash.  BTW, the deciding factor for us to haul at Gulf Harbour Marina was their 100-ton travel lift.  BeBe can be lifted by a 35-ton travel lift, but that means disconnecting the mizzen backstays, lowering the SSB antenna, disconnecting the mizzen topping lift and lowering the mizzen boom.  Using a 100-ton travel lift means we don’t have to do any of that.  Just pull into the slipway and up you go.  Sweet.

Last week we had the Autoprop acid-cleaned and serviced.   When the prop was being serviced they thoroughly inspected the bearings and seals and everything looked perfect.  However, when dealing with the manufacturer to confirm if our prop was part of the recall or not Bill learned that it was time to replace the bearings and seals even if they did appear perfect.  This should be done every 5 years on an Autoprop.  BeBe is now 6 years old, so this routine maintenance should be performed even if there is no visible damage.  Bill immediately ordered the parts from the UK.  The package is awaiting Customs clearance this morning in Auckland.   Bureaucracy is the most annoying thing we deal with as cruisers, regardless of where in the world we travel.

The paint shop workers can finish 3 of their projects tomorrow if the winds and rains hold off.  Weather looks iffy as I type this.  Hoping to get everything completed and be back in the water Friday afternoon, with or without replacing the Autoprop bearings and seals.  The local shop said we do not need to replace the bearings and seals now as the current ones look perfect.  At least we will have these parts on hand for the next time we haul out, which will probably by in South Africa.

This is our longest haul-out to date and we are tired of living up in the air in a boatyard.  There is an apartment nearby that people often rent while their boat is hauled but it was booked 2 months ago when we scheduled this haul-out, and there isn’t a hotel nearby; so we have no choice other than to stay on the boat.  This is the first time we have lived aboard during a haul-out – no way we could stand the heat in the Caribbean.  It hasn’t been bad living aboard in the boatyard here in the cool New Zealand temps but I am tired of all the boatyard dirt and of having to walk so far to the toilets and showers.  Plus I would like to be able to cook; getting tired of restaurant meals.  It always surprises us how much dust and dirt gets inside your boat when in a boatyard.  The interior of our boat is filthy by our standards and I can’t wait to get back to our slip and clean the walls, etc.  Also anxious to get started on provisioning but that must also wait until we are back in the slip.

March 10, 2009  Wednesday

The sound of the polisher against the hull is music to my ears this morning. 

Bill had requested that the paint shop cut and polish the hull.  Bill waxes the boat regularly but after 6 years the gel coat was beginning to appear a bit chalky.  Bill hasn’t been able to do this work himself because we did not have a angle polisher.  So he contracted with the paint shop to do this job.  And it looks great!  The hull is so shiny it reflects everything nearby.  Looks glossy like a new boat.

Bill also inquired where this shop buys their angle polishers.  We have shopped extensively for a 220V angle polisher since we moved aboard almost 3 years ago.  Found a few in the $500 and higher price range, but Bill refused to pay that price.  He called the supplier for the Touch of Gloss paint shop and located a 220V Makita angle polisher for well under $200.  We immediately drove down towards Auckland and bought this nifty little machine so we can do our own work in the future.

All that remains to be done is to apply the white strip in the brown rub rail around the boat and to apply the Prop Speed to the Autoprop.  Those 2 jobs should be completed this afternoon if it doesn’t rain.  The Prop Speed product is supposed to be left on to dry overnight.   Let’s hope this area can manage 24 hours with rain for a change.

The travel lift is already fully booked for Friday, so we are hoping to splash Thursday afternoon.