11 May 2016 - Whangarei New Zealand (Town Basin Marina)
A few weeks ago, Diane and I, together with Reneta (SV Renehara) and her “couch-surfers” Lisa (from China) and Adeena (from South Africa) took a scenic drive to the Whangarei Heights and climbed Mount Manaia - one of a cluster of majestic, jagged, bush-covered hills overlooking the entrance to Whangarei harbour. These are the intrepid hikers (less me, who took the photo) at the start of the walk/climb.
The trail has been upgraded in recent years and includes many flights of steps, and some care needs to be taken by anyone attempting to reach the very top. It can be a little dangerous at times, and it was certainly a cardio-vascular workout. This very short section of stairs is just the start…..
Here we are at the top, where there were very impressive views over Bream Bay from the summit, 403 metres above sea-level.
This area is of special significance to the indigenous Māori who will not live in the shadow of the mountain. Legend has it that Hautatu, a chief who lived on the opposite side of the harbour entrance, crossed the water and was chasing after his wife Pito and two children who had been taken captive by Manaia, the paramount chief of Whangarei. All five were struck by lightning and turned into the rock outcrops visible at the summit. It was a lot easier on the way down, but still my knees took a pummelling.
It was a welcome break to see a typical NZ beach at the shore side later in the day.
Our boat projects are coming to a close. I finally finished painting the deck and raised cabin surfaces - all done while we were at dock-side. Diane made these “see-through” cockpit flaps, one for each side - secured to the hard top or bimini. These side flaps can replace the normal ones that we use when at dock or at anchor, when we need shade.
However, the temperature has dropped so that it is about 21/22C at daytime and down to 9-14C at night. Therefore, we don’t want to sit in the shade anymore, its just too cold. We also think that we can sail with these flaps up, providing us with protection from cold water and wind, as (eventually) we sail North back to the tropics.
We have made some progress on our Code Zero installation. This is a light air sail, replacing our ParaSailor spinnaker that we only used four times in 7 years. This Code Zero is on a flexible furler with a continuous line. The sail is normally bagged and stored inside the boat, and only brought out for passage, because it has no UV protection. When we’re at the yard next month, we’ll have the pulpit modified to give a little more clearance between the Code Zero, the jib sail and the pulpit.
Another item on my checklist has been to replenish my stocks of oil filters, diesel fuel filters, air filters and motor oil. Since I don’t know what availability there will be as we move further West, I took the opportunity to stock up at Filter HQ, a NZ shop that specializes in sourcing off-brand filters at a reduced price. Now that we’re so far from home, the brands are no longer Purolator, Fram, or Wix - but rather Griffin, Donaldson, Sakura and Full. Instead of these filters being made in the US, Canada or Mexico - they’re made in Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia (who knew?).
A few weeks ago, when the night-time temperature dropped to only 9C, I was hastened to check to see if our forced air, diesel furnace still worked. Its a Volvo / Ardic model, last fired up seven years ago when we were transiting the St Lawrence River in Canada. As expected it did NOT fire up. After some trouble-shooting, I speculated that a new glow plug was required. I ordered a new one from Sweden, and then after replacement, it worked very well, producing great clouds of blue smoke, much to the delight of a dozen spectators from the dock. Unfortunately, the aluminum exhaust hose had also developed several interior pinhole leaks (which was unpleasant to say the least) and it took me a few days to source replacement materials to make that right. Now the heater is working well, but the temperature is high enough that we don’t yet need it.
Another thing we did is to replace our “lost” stern anchor (left on the bottom at Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas because I couldn’t retrieve it) with a NZ made Manson aluminum Racing Anchor. Its just as light and functional as the Fortress anchors, but cheaper to buy. Here it is stowed on our stern, on a new purpose built bracket.
Another repair of note was our water heater. Our four year old Kuuma water heater (made in Thailand) started dripping water, seeping through the tank or the seams. This was not a connection problem. I reluctantly decided that for ease of installation, I’d prefer the same model, as it would be surely an easy fit. However, I did some investigation as to WHY this water heater failed after only four years. The heater tank is aluminum, and so are our water tanks. I use carbon filters to prevent chlorine from entering the tanks, therefore the water heater should have benefited from that choice as well. I discovered that the manufacturer sells a magnesium anode “to prolong the lifespan of the aluminum tank”. This is an extra $ 20, not included in the $ 400 tank purchase - so I bought one. In fact, I bought two, one to replace this one in four years. Lets see if it works.
There is a really good FM radio station that I like to listen here on 91.6MHz. We’ve got two ways to listen to local broadcast FM radio: with our built-in “marinized” FM radio, the BOSS MR637u (that is connected to our cockpit speakers) or our portable SonyRDP-XF100ip. The BOSS radio scans for radio stations in 200KHz increments, on the odd numbers, i.e. 91.5, 91.7 and 91.9 — it won’t pickup 91.6MHz. The Sony scans in 100KHz increments, and it will pickup 91.5 and 91.6MHz. I’ve discovered a set of international standards that are in use. The frequency of an FM broadcast station (more strictly its assigned nominal center frequency) is usually an exact multiple of 100 kHz. In most of South Korea, the Americas, the Philippines and the Caribbean, only odd multiples are used. In some parts of Europe, Greenland and Africa, only even multiples are used. In the UK odd or even are used. In Italy, multiples of 50 kHz are used. New Zealand seems to be following the European standard, surprise-surprise. Therefore, after checking the antenna connections and actually buying a replacement FM radio antenna a few days ago, I finally figured out that our BOSS FM radio will never pickup New Zealand radio stations - because its another standard! We bought it when in Trinidad three years ago. Its a good thing that we also have the portable Sony model, that will pickup all FM radio signals, anywhere.
We’re still at the Town Basin, but we’ll be heading to Port Whangarei Marine Centre on 1 June to haul-out. After nearly eight years with Coppercoat bottom paint, we figure its time to fully re-coat. Plus, we have a bit of “bottom” work to do anyway, so we’ll do it all at that time. Since we’ve been stationary for nearly six months, we expect the bottom will be very “fouled” also.
We’ve now been in NZ for nearly six months. While completing the “end of season” survey for the marine association a few weeks ago, we were asked to describe three main things that Whangarei Marine Group might be able to improve on. We cited these three points:
- We lacked awareness of ACC and other medical agencies available to visitors to NZ. Some months after arriving here, we discovered that the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand. This means that if you’re a visitor, and you “slip on a banana peel”, your medical care is taken care of. On the other hand, it also means that you’re unable to sue - which we’re not concerned about.
- We found the aggressive attitude of motor vehicle drivers to pedestrian traffic unnerving and unique. Diane and I have lived in Europe and travelled extensively throughout much of the world, but we have never been in a place where we were so shocked at the attitude of drivers to pedestrians. I’ve discovered that one in nine fatalities on the roads involve pedestrians and that pedestrian injuries and death caused by motor vehicle accidents cost the country $290 Million NZD each year. We approached the local Tourist Hub, the Police Station and City Council about this issue in search of clarification regarding “pedestrian rights”. What we found is that unless you’re crossing at a defined zebra crossing, or a traffic light controlled intersection - beware. Motor vehicles “own” the road and pedestrians have no right to be on it, or crossing it. Be very careful. We found that the aggressive driver attitude prevails in large shopping area parking lots as well, and you have to be very careful walking so that you don’t get run down by a car. Almost every week some driver honks his/her horn or shakes their fist at us, even though we would never even step out in front of a car expecting to gain the right of way. We found that NZ drivers have a unique, unexpected and unsettling attitude towards pedestrians.
- We found that the high cost of many tourist attractions are often unaffordable to full-time cruisers. The basic entry cost, for example, to the 'Lord of the Rings' Hobbiton Movie Set is $110 NZD per person. This is only about a two hour tour and does not include the cost of “getting there”. By way of comparison, a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida is now $105 USD, up from $99 USD. What I’m saying is that NZ gets a lot of tourists and the attractions costs are high, together with the costs of hotels, motels, rental cars, etc. We found NZ to be a little expensive for “long term, or continual” touring. Its one thing to fly in to a country for a few weeks with a “bag of money”, but its another to stick it out for months on end as we tend to do ……
In truth, we really like New Zealand, but personally, I won’t want to stay here (long-term) for three reasons:
- My knees and elbows are rough. My skin dries out in Canada, mostly in the winter time. In the seven years since we’ve left Canada, I’ve found that the best climate for my skin is one where I can have a dip in warm salt water every day.
- My joints ache of arthritis, particularly my knees and my neck. Again, I found that a climate that has a daily temperature of 25-28C is one best for these old joints.
- Seasonal allergies. I’ve suffered from plant and tree pollen allergies all my life. In the seven years that we’ve been cruising, my allergies never bothered me at all, unless I went back to Ottawa in the summer, or lived in New Zealand. Itchy eyes, sniffling nose - no thank you, not if I can avoid it.
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SV Joana is listed for sale at this site (in case you're wondering why, we're not planning to give up the cruising lifestyle or our home, but most things are for sale and since we've met many cruisers who have listed their boat, we figured we'd do it too).
Countries Visited So Far: (Departed Canada: May 2009)
Antigua: May 2011
Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014
Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011
Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: Oct 2014 -
Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014
Dominica: May 2011, April 2013
Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
Fiji: September/October 2015
French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti and the Society Islands): April-July 2015
Galapagos: March 2015
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
New Zealand: November 2015
Niue: July/August 2015
Panama: December 2014 (San Blas Islands), (Portobello and Canal) January/February 2015
Puerto Rico: April 2011
St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013
St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011
St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013
Tobago: March-May 2012
Tonga: August 2015
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014