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  • Writer's pictureTom

Reasons to be cheerful (Part 1)

Motuarohia Island, Bay of Islands, NZ
Skyfall (top right), anchored off Motuarohia island

After the trials and tribulations (things breaking) of March and early April (see last post), things are looking up and there are reasons to be cheerful. Why? Just look at my list:

Skyfall is (hopefully) 'all sorted' Nothing has broken in two weeks and I have not had to order or buy anything boat-related in that time. Since the last post, we successfully got CZONE working on the new chartplotter, have updated firmware and software for all instruments and devices on the boat and everything talks to everything else. Doing it in New Zealand was a great idea. BEP Marine (part of Navico group) technical support in Auckland was fantastic. I probably used over eight hours of an engineers time (over the phone) before all the issues were ironed out. Yet they were patient and understanding without once suggesting that I should be paying for support locally. Another big success is that we appear to have fixed all the leaks. Skyfall had four minor leaks crossing the last part of the Pacific. Two were relatively straightforward to find and fix. The last two were from the D1's (inner wires holding the mast up) which go through the deck and are attached to rods below deck. Keeping that 'thru' deck system watertight has been a bain of my life. But, after taking the mast down and examining the system carefully, we made two small modifications which seems to be successful (at the second attempt) at making the system leak-tight. Fingers crossed! Since the last post our fridge failed. The (only) refrigeration engineer in Whangarei came, examined, declared everything was bad and I should replace everything. Potentially another expensive repair. And he did not have time to do it until the end of April. So we sailed to Opua without a working fridge. The company in Opua (Northfreeze) was excellent. It only took half an hour (and no replacement parts) to get the fridge working again. What a result!

OCC 70th anniversary celebrations The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) celebrates it's 70th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, many events are being organised around the world. One was a rally, held over the Easter weekend, around Kawau island and Scotts Landing. Skyfall was not yet ready to sail, but Brice (SV Sabre2) offered me a berth for the weekend. The three day event included a drinks evening on the Thursday, the celebration dinner at the Mansion House (home of the retired Governer of NZ in the late 19th century) on Saturday, and a barbecue on Sunday (more of that later).

Mansion House, Kawau Island
Mansion House, Kawau Island

Apart from the generally relaxed nature of the events, it was great to exchange stories with friends old and new. Two weeks later, a barbecue was organised in Whangarei. I am afraid to say, I put little effort into meeting new people at this event. It was attended by too many boats which we had accompanied across the Pacific yet had not really seen in NZ. I spent all my time catching up.

Meeting 'sailing royalty' The OCC event in Kawau was organised by Lin Pardy. Together with her late husband Larry ( a famous NZ wooden boat builder), they were one of the first couples to sail away to explore distant lands. Only they did it in a twenty something foot long wooden boat, without an engine and without electronics. Until recently, Lin was still using a lead line to measure depth! Her exploits have been recorded in twelve books, many of which were the inspiration for several cruisers we know. The barbecue on Sunday, was at her house which they built in the 80's.

3M marine, Kawau Island
Arriving at 3M Marine jetty on Kawau island,, home to Lin Pardy, for the OCC barbecue

The following week, as I awaited the re-stepping of my new mast, Jeanne Socrates, the first woman to sail non-stop solo around the world, arrived to have her rigging changed. Now over eighty, she has sailed around Cape Horn SIX times and has sailed 230,00+nm. (by comparison, after my round the world trip I may have 40-50,000nm).

It is not the first time we have met, but the first time we have had a good chance to talk. That evening, after drinks on Skyfall, Nancy (boat opposite), Jeanne and I had dinner together. In both cases, despite their vast knowledge, experience and achievements, I was struck by their humility, approachability and general good company.

Crew choice Denise is turning out to be an inspired choice as crew. Her sailing experience may be limited, but we get on well and she is afraid of nothing, taking it all in her stride. Sailing from Whangarei north, close raching in 18-20 knots through a short period, disturbed choppy sea, she spent half the time turning green, with her head over the side. But she was not perturbed and just got on witth things. She is even prepared to say she likes my cooking!

Exploration of the Bay of Islands We sailed north on April 6th. With Skyfall functioning again, we have had a chance to explore the famous 'Bay of Islands' cruising grounds. We cleared in here last October but did not do any cruising before heading south to Whangarei. It is a place which 'does what it says on the tin'. Very large bay, many islands to explore with each island having a multitude of anchorages. Activities revolve around finding a secluded spot, paddleboarding, going ashore and hiking or fishing (where allowed). It is also just about warm enough to swim. However, visibility is not so good compared to many places we went last year. The top picture is Motuarohia Island, famous for lagoons which are filled at high tide and full of sea life. One of my favourite hikes was our day from Deep water Cove to the lighthouse on the tip of Cape Brett, at the south eastern end of the bay.

Cape Brett
Cape Brett

Plans firmed up for year The intention is to get Skyfall to South Africa for next winter. I did not want to miss Indonesia, and have signed up for the Sail2Indonesia Rally. This means we need to be in Tual, Kei Islands by July 15th. There is a lot to do in the 10 weeks between NZ and Tual. I am pleased to report that we now have a detailed itinary, with all passages planned (with a little margin) to ensure we can enjoy at least a small part of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cays in the Torres straits in that time. Similarly, I have been double checking the passage from Bali, Indonesia to Richards Bay to try to maximise how much time we can spend in Indonesia.

We now have a plan!!

Reunions Most of the international boats will start leaving New Zealand from May 1st. The favoured departure point is Opua, Bay of Islands. So the boats start congregating in late April, waiting for a weather window. We are no exception. The reward for a pleasant evening in the Opua cruising club is usually a reunion with one or other of the boats we met last year. Similarly, we ran into friends in different anchorages around the Bay of Islands.

These reunions are especially important for Skyfall because it is likely to be the last we will see of the boats. Most are heading to Australia and have a much more relaxed schedule than we do.

SV Freya
Todd and Susan (SV Freya) turned up unexpectantly at the same anchorage one evening. One of many reunions

Once we leave Fiji, I expect we will be meeting new boats and new friends all the way home.

Car is sold Kiwis benefit from a ready source of very cheap ten year old Japanese imports. Therefore, it is much more cost efffective to buy rather than rent a car if staying for more than a few months. But you do need to sell it at the end of your stay. In fact, Matt and Amy, (Youtube channel 'Sailing Florence') even made a profit when selling their car after six months usage. I chose to 'price to sell', and sold the car to the first person who came to look at it. It hardly matters because, the cost of fuel in NZ being quite high, the cost per km of the fuel dwarfs the small loss I made on the transactions. So, another great result. Diving gear at a bargain price Having been paid for the car in cash, I felt quite flush with a bundle of notes in my pocket. By chance I was talking to a (now retired from sailing) cruiser and diver who felt he was 'past it' and happy to sell his diving gear to a good home. Given that Denise is a keen diver (far more experienced than myself) with her own gear, I felt this was too good an opportunity to miss. So I acquired two tanks, wetsuit, BCD, regulator, weights and a dive computer at a bargain price.

Custom bracket to hold dive tanks
Addding dive gear requires a solution to stow the (heavy) dive tanks properly. which created another boat job. Our solution:

Our plans for Fiji include two weeks diving on the island of Taveuni.

Preparations for passage to Fiji are complete. This is my list (not including rigging check and engine service as they were done recently):

a) Brian, our wind vane steering is back in action. Given the generally overcast skies and shorter days, solar generation will be much worse than last October so we will try to not use the autopilot

But why Brian? Well, I have noticed that several friends have taken to giving their wind vane steering names. I have heard 'Harry' Hydrovane and 'Peter' (wind) pilot.We have also christened the autopilot 'La Pinta' (with a nod to Slocum). So we needed a name. I wrote a post about using the hydrovane ( and likened it to playing judo. It is all about balance. So I thought to name it after one of the famour judo masters. If you disregard Japanese names, thre turns out to be little choice. Brian Jacks was the first Brit to win a medal in the judo world championships. So it is named after him. And if you do not like that link, was there not a certain Brian of Nazereth who steered his people reliably? b) Iridium satellite set up again. This involves installation of a new SIM card and signing up for a new subscription. The only real complication was the PredictWind tracking page did not work initially. Fortunately Predictwind have an explanation on their website of what to do. c) Lifejackets serviced. This is required every two years. As well as checking for leaks, it is best to swap out the cylindes and trigger mechanisms d) Insurance updated for Fiji. Although the passage north is less risky than the passage south, Fiji has lots of reefs, some of which are poorly charted.  Last season twelve yachts hit reefs. For that reason, most insurance companies add a premium if you include Fiji in your cruising itinary. There is a good argument to stop at Minerva reef again, not just for the lobsters, but to recover so that you are fresh for the last couple of days negotiating the reefs into Fiji.

e) Downloaded all satellite maps for Fiji and Vanuatu

I am told that, if you buy the latest charts for some of these areas, a few will reference Captain Cook as the source for the data! Downloading satellite images and overlaying these images with electronic charts is a good way to see discrepancies. f) Weather router. We are again signed up with John Martin to advise us on the best weather window, when to depart and optimum routing. g)Non-perishable shopping. Skyfall is now filled to the gunwhales with non-perishable foods. We also bought small items to trade, particularly for Vanuatu (exercise books, crayons, fishing tackle, etc)

Good golly, Miss Molly and boats My tribute to the late, great Ian Dury (from the song referenced in the title).

So we ar ready to go. All we need to do still is to fill up with fuel (within 24hrs of departure to get duty free) and do our perishable goods shopping. The current forecast suggests we will be departing on Wednesday May 1st. We are looking forward to it.

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