Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

 August 3:



     Finally have the bags unpacked after a week and a half.  It's always a mystery to me where it all goes.  The closets and lockers are already full when we show up with 6 big duffel bags.  But slowly over the next 10 days, new parts get installed, clothes get stuffed into closets, and all the spares and miscellany (including the bags themselves) find a home.   As the clutter clears, we can finally start to appreciate the new upholstery, blinds, woodwork and such.  What a lovely home we have!   

    On Sunday evenings, there is a "cruisers potluck barbecue" that remains well-attended even in the depths of winter here.  The only cruisers left at this time of year are the ones with problems and repairs to make that have seriously delayed their departure to warmer places, and those planning to spend the duration of the season here at the dock.  This leaves plenty for everyone to commiserate about around the picnic table.  There's an unusual stretch of benign southerly winds predicted for later in the week which promises to be the perfect window for a few late stragglers to leave for Fiji.  The rest of us are mostly envious to be stuck here, but a tiny bit glad not to be facing these cold winds offshore without the benefit of our tiny electric cabin heater.



August 10:


     We've been busy getting back into the routine of homeschooling again.  We continue to use the Calvert School curriculum, and were anticipating starting a new "box" by now.  (The whole year's worth of school books, notebooks, teacher's guides, pencils, etc. arrives in one big box for each year of school.)  But due to a shipping mix-up, we are now waiting around for Calvert to ship the curriculum all the way to New Zealand.  Much to Emmett's chagrin, we still have lots of 5th grade lessons that never got done when he enrolled in public school in Alaska.

     I suppose if I was a trained teacher, I could have developed a more creative curriculum that better incorporated our travel with the things he learns about.  We're now going through early American/Colonial History and the geography of the East Coast and I think how much more relevant this would be if we were learning this back when we were sailing through Annapolis and Charleston and such.  Or he has these lessons in Art History this year that I think would be so cool to learn about in a few years if we were actually sailing through the Mediterranean and visiting the homes of some of these masterpieces.

     We are getting a little better about veering off the teacher's guide instructions when conditions warrant, though.  For example, just outside of town lies the only oil refinery for all of New Zealand.  There's even a tourist sign on the highway encouraging everyone to come see the visitor's center.  Now this seems like a rather odd tourist attraction, but it made a perfect school field trip for us.  We started out with a science lesson on the boat.  Using their website where Emmett learned all about how crude oil is converted to gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and asphalt before driving out there to see the whole process in real life. 

Emmett with Marsden Point Refinery

      OK, to be honest, they really don't let the tourists anywhere near the actual equipment, but it turned out to be a surprisingly fun and interesting tour nonetheless.  Kathleen, having little interest in crude oil refining, opted to stay home for a quiet afternoon on the boat.  So I had to chaperone the homeschool field trip all by myself.  Since we didn't want Mom to miss out on all this fascinating science, I had Em present a formal report on the whole trip to Mom the following day.



August 14:


       Today we piled in the car and drove for 7 hours soutward through rolling pastoral fields full of sheep and cows.  Then through bustling Auckland, followed by more hills full of sheep and cows.  The Kiwis are a bit sensitive about sheep jokes.  Even the tourism guidebooks plead that while there were once 20 sheep for every person in New Zealand, things have now modernized to the point that there are only 12 sheep per person.  In any event, there are a lot of sheep.  Coming from a country where animals are packed into muddy feedlots and stuffed with corn as quickly as possible, it is charming to see happy grass fed animals wandering around.  I hope New Zealand isn't in too much of a rush to "modernize".

      Our destination was the city of Napier, center of the Hawke's Bay region.  This is on the south-east part of the north island.  Napier was almost completely destroyed in 1931 by a huge earthquake.  The townsfolk set to rebuilding right away and with Art Deco being the cool architectural style of the time, most of the downtown buildings are classic art deco.  These buildings cozy up to the broad beach of Hawke's Bay, looking almost like a miniature Miami Beach.

      Napier's other claim to fame is the Hawke's Bay viticultural region that surrounds it.  The broad fields that extend outside of town are dotted with vineyards and orchards.  And yes, sheep.  The shepherds move their flocks from vineyard to vineyard, grazing down the grass in a much more ecologically friendly manner than any power mower.  Hawke's Bay is world renowned for producing some great red wines.  (The Marlborough region at the top of the south island is usually best known for white wines.) 

      So if you can imagine Miami Beach surrounded by Napa Valley, you might get some idea of what Hawke's Bay is like.  Then throw in the militantly anti-status consciousness of most New Zealanders and you end up with an artsy city of great food and wine, without any of the outrageous wealth displays or snobbery that you might expect in such a place. 

     Our original plan was to rent some bicycles, and follow a carefully crafted path to a half dozen wineries (for Mom & Dad), with stops at a Chocolate Factory (for Emmett) and an Olivery (which is apparently what they call a place that grows and sells olives & olive oil), finishing up at a pub that brews its own beer and cider.  We had convinced ourselves that the whole day would be calorie-neutral what with all the biking. 

     Anyway, that was our plan until we realized that our arrival in Napier was coinciding with a collosal winter storm that is roaring up from Antarctica.  We considered  postponing the trip until we realized that would mean sitting onboard Uliad and huddling around that tiny heater all week... A warm hotel room in Napier sounded much nicer, thanks.  So here we are, checked in, heater cranked, TV on, and pouring over the travel guide to see what we can do here in the off-season that won't involve too much exposure to the icy winds that are already starting to blow out there.


August  15:

     The south island is being hit with a blizzard today, which pretty much shuts down the country as best as I can tell.  Here in Hawke's Bay, the temperatures are in the lower 40s, with scattered clouds and blustery winds.  The crew of Uliad remains undaunted.  As in much of the USA, you can't swing a cat without hitting an espresso stand here, so we started with that.  The warm beverages gave us courage to wander down the waterfront boulevard.   Emmett was nearly brought to tears looking through the bars of the coolest skate park ever--closed for the winter.  

      We decided to begin our wine tasting adventure at the New Zealand Wine Center.  This is a place devoted to teaching people all about how to enjoy and appreciate wine--not something I need any lessons on, but...  We began in the "aroma room" where you could find racks of wands to pick up and waft under your nose.  Each one infused with the various scents that you might hear in wine reviews.  Ever wondered what that merlot label meant when it said the wine had: "strong  bouquet of black currant and cassis with notes of leather and bilberry..."?  The aroma room is the place for you to learn all about it.  Emmett had the most fun of all of us here.  The learning session was followed by a 12 aroma test where I must admit my wife narrowly won the prize for aroma discrimination.

Learning the aromas of wine in Hawke's Bay

     After this, we were ushered into a small theater to watch a video that described some of the micro-climate regions, grape varieties, and styles that characterize Hawke's Bay.  This was accompanied by a flight of 6 different wines for us to taste while the winemakers on screen led us through the tasting and explained what we were supposed to be tasting and smelling.  We were encouraged to keep our own tasting notes, which we then reviewed with the Wine Center staff and he offered some helpful suggestions based upon our preferences as to what wineries we might want to explore further. 

     By now it was late afternoon, so the wineries would have to wait until tomorrow.  Emmett opted to bask under the novelty of a television in the hotel room, giving Kathleen and I an opportunity to have a grown up dinner date at a fabulous Thai restaurant nearby.   

August  16:

    Today was the serious Hawke's Bay tasting tour.  We started at the Silky Oak Chocolate Factory.  A stroll through the facilities started with a view through the windows where the choclatiers were pouring everything from tiny coffee bean shaped chocolates to giant two foot tall chocolate bunnies.  Then there was the Museum of Chocolate, which went into extraordinary detail about everything from it's ancient Mayan origins to today's modern chocolate companies.  And finally a look through the chocolate shop and breakfast at the cafe.  What a decadent way to start the day!

    We then drove on to the Trinity Hill winery--a cold, modern concrete block of a building greeted us as we drove up the long driveway.  A rather stern woman inside seemed to match the exterior style.  The wines were good, but the reception chilly--we walked out feeling like we had really interrupted them from something more important than, say, selling their product!  I hoped that this was not how wine touring was going to be down here.

    A half mile further down the road we came to Salvare Estate winery where things couldn't have been more different.  The small parking lot sat in front of an old red barn.  A fat old yellow lab who clearly knew a thing or two about living the good life lay comfortably in the sunny entrance.  A lazy flicker of welcome emanated from his tail as we walked in.  We were met inside by a guy who looked and sounded exactly like Brett from Flight of the Conchords.  "It's Business Time", I kept thinking to myself as Brett poured round after round for us to taste.  The wines here were a bit less complex, a bit more approachable...just like the winery itself. 

    In addition to wines, Salvare produces olive oil.  So Emmett waited patiently with the yellow lab through the wine tasting until he could join us for the tasting of two varieties of olive oil, and three varieties of dukkah.  Now dukkah, we were to learn is an Egyptian condiment of ground nuts and spices.  How have I not heard of this in all my years?  A scrap of bread, moistened in olive oil, then dipped in dukkah = pure heaven!   Between the dukkah, the decent and reasonably priced wines and the friendly, laid back atmosphere led to Salvare winning the vote for best winery visit all day and s-v ULIAD's first ever corporate Facebook friend.  Good on ya Salvare Estate!

Sheep at work in the vineyardTasting at the Salvare winery, Hawke's Bay

    We bought more wine and some oil and dukkah before moving down the road to Farmgate winery.  The long driveway through the vineyards opened up on a quaint old farmhouse where inside an enormous wooden plank served as the bar for our tasting.  Farmgate shares their tasting room with several other labels, so they had quite a selection to show us.  With yesterday's new found aromatic knowledge, Emmett was really getting into the spirit by now, wanting to take a good whiff of each glass that was poured and try to sense the lychee from the violet.  Hawke's Bay once again showed it's muscle and out came the wallet to buy a few more bottles. 

    I wasn't sure how long we'd be at this, so I had been careful all day to spit my wine (well, OK most of it...OK, OK,  at least some of it!) into the spittoons provided at the end of each tasting table.  I was driving, after all.  But by now Emmett was getting bored and Kathleen was ready to walk it off a while, so when we came upon the little town of Havelock North, Emmett grabbed his scooter and took off for a skate park while Kathleen and I wandered the boutiques.  I found a gourmet grocery to stock up on all sorts of spices and nibbles to have with our ever growing wine collection.  If Kathleen had any reservations about all the money I was spending, she kindly kept those thoughts to herself.  (We're talking salami freshly imported from ITALY people!!) 

     This was followed by 20 minutes driving in circles trying to find Telegraph Hill Olivery.  We eventually found it and enjoyed its seemingly endless variety of olive inspired foods.  Now I don't even like olives that much, but Telegraph Hill makes these maplewood smoked olives that are absolutely fabulous.  And then there was more dukkah, and more olive oils and mustards and vinegars and lets just say it took us a while to make a well informed decision about what to buy!

     By now it was about 3:45pm and most wineries wisely close their tasting rooms by 4pm to keep them from turning into some sort of free happy hour lounge.  So we hurried down the road to finish up at Te Mata Estate winery--which is I think the oldest and one of the best known Hawke's Bay wineries in terms of top quality.  So we were a bit concerned they might be a bit snooty when we rushed in just before closing time.  But as soon as we started talking about the wines and they found that even Emmett could identify the cedar and blackberry bouquet in their 2009 Merlot/Cabernet, they warmed right up to us.  So of course we had to buy a few more bottles of wine there, too.

    We ended the day with a nice hot soak in the jacuzzi back at the hotel.  After all that sampling, a little plate of cheeses, crackers, and a sliced New Zealand apple was all that was necessary for dinner.  We ate it in bed while watching a show on the Discovery channel about some desperate, remote Alaska gold miners and thought how far away that land seems now.


August  17:

    Perhaps it was the wine, but we made a much slower start this morning, opting to sleep in late before setting out on another day of wandering.  Ever since moving onboard Uliad, Kathleen has been a frustrated gardener without a garden.  So when she told us she wanted to go see the Mission View Garden Center on the edge of town that sounded so pretty in her guide book, Emmett and I were quick to indulge her.  Well, that and she told me that there was also a little cafe in the middle where I could surely find my choice of espresso beverages.

   It was indeed a charming garden, surrounded by tall hedges to create a little sanctuary from the world outside.  The cafe was a little house full of country-cute tchatchkes that reminded me of rural Wisconsin.  As I sipped my mocha, I noticed a hand painted sign near the front door where the owner stated that this was her have a little cafe in the middle of her beautiful garden, and after years and years of hard work and never, never giving up, it had all come to pass.  This was followed by the quote that she said had helped her through many a long hard day:

      "What ever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must surely come to pass."

I like that.


    Parental guilt got the best of us and we decided we'd better schedule some kid-centric activities today.  This consisted of a trip to the National Aquarium, which turned out to be quite a yawn after all our travels.  Then, as if we haven't found enough things to taste, we wandered over to Aritaki Honey, where after a brief lesson on beekeeping and a look at some real beehives behind glass, Emmett finally didn't have to limit himself to olfactory sampling.  We tasted about 10 different varieties of honey before deciding on the official Uliad supply.  (Blue Borage if you're curious... it tastes better than it sounds!).

    Then we moved on to The Filter Room--a local brew pub and cidery where I ordered up the beer sampling tray, Mom tried a variety of hard ciders, and Emmett focused his attention on the non-alcoholic sodas/ciders over a late lunch.  This being a restaurant, I had to stop the slurping and spitting that had nearly become habit in all the wineries.  And Kathleen wisely offered to drive us all home!  So between the honey and the Filter Room tasting, I've got some ideas for my next batch of homebrew back onboard Uliad.

    The winter weather has now abated and the snow is already melted on the mountain passes, so tomorrow we'll make the long drive back to Uliad.  Just hope our car can make it over the hills now that its loaded down with all this wine!  Its a shame to be here in winter...we missed out on the chance to taste all the fresh fruit they grow here too...



August  22:

      The weather has finally started to warm up here, so I've started tackling the big, big job of painting the mast.  (This after the big, big job of unpacking all the wine we bought in Hawke's Bay!)  Mast painting involves me getting hoisted in a little seat called a bosun's chair 65 feet in the air to the top of the mast while Kathleen mans the hydraulic winch that does the heavy lifting.  My first trip up and down was to do the sanding, but I was so sore the next day that I decided to take my time in going back up for the next run.  It's a lot more work than it looks to cling to some wires 5 stories in the air and try to twist around to each little spot that needs to be sanded.

      So I spent the next day walking around stiffly and planning the rest of the job so it would involve as few trips up and down as possible.  I rode into town on our folding bicycle to get the paint I'll need and ended up with a flat tire on the way home.  Then as I was fixing that, Emmett returned from the skate park nearly in tears, holding his Razor Scooter that had snapped neatly in half.  The mast would have to wait until tomorrow!  Em asked if maybe I could weld it back together.  "Sorry, Emmett, I don't know how to weld, and I don't have a welder in the first place.

     "Yes, you do, Dad, I've seen you welding wires together with that thing..."  he argued.

      I had to explain the difference between welding and soldering and that soldering would never be strong enough for the abuse he puts that scooter through on the ramps and jumps at the skate park.  "But," I suggested, "there's a metal fabrication shop on the other side of the boat yard.  I'm sure you could go to their office and find out what it would cost you for one of their guys to weld your scooter back together."

      The next morning, Emmett came rolling down the dock with a huge smile on his face and a repaired scooter under his feet.  He apparently charmed one of the welders enough to fix his scooter for free.  And best of all, they had to grind off some of the paint to do the weld and the grinder made this "cool pattern that looks like sparks".  So now it's, like, even better. 

Emmett with his freshly welded scooter


August  23:

     You may have noticed that we've been rather vague about our cruising plans now that we're back on Uliad.  There's a reason for that--we didn't really know yet.  By staying longer in Alaska, we've missed out on the better half of the "cruising season" in the southern tropics.  So to leave now would mean turning around and coming back in another month or two...or else hurrying on to some other safe place before the cyclone season sets in by late November.  None of us are very excited to make the week long thousand mile journey from New Zealand to Fiji any more than we have to.  So a second thought was for me to try to get my medical license here, work part time, and stay here in New Zealand until next March when it's safe to venture out again.  That way we'd get more time to explore New Zealand as well!

     So I've been working on that for a while now and wading through the bureaucracy and paperwork to try to get licensed.  Finding the job was the easy part.  New Zealand, it seems, is pretty short on doctors.  Mostly because the national health system pays them a good deal less than they could make in other countries such as Australia.  Finally after months of effort, I finally got word this week that the New Zealand Medical Council had approved my credentials and I can therefore apply for a work visa here.  (More paperwork!)  Then after that we'll have to deal with the bureaucracy of New Zealand customs and trying to prolong the temporary importation status of our boat.

     For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting fresh sea stories on this blog, I apologize, and promise that we still plan get off the dock and sail around New Zealand, too.  And I guess there's always a chance as we navigate the maze of government regulations that a family of ocean vagrants like us could still be told to leave the country.  So stay tuned! 


August  27:

      Today was the big finish of the mast painting project.  As you recall, the sanding was done earlier, and that could really be done anytime, but the rest of the project has to get done in close proximity.  First was a trip up the mast two days ago to mask off all the stainless fittings that I didn't want to get paint on.  Since most mornings the outside of the boat is damp with dew, it was around 11am by the time it had all dried off enough for Kathleen to send me aloft.  While up there I also greased the bearing for the mainsail furler at the top of the mast and then polished each stainless fitting before masking it off.  More than once I thought to myself how silly it must be to polish something that is 65 feet in the air and nobody will ever see closely enough to notice if it has some oxidation on it... but then I remembered last summer in Tonga where three separate yachts came into the harbor after being dismasted at sea.  Any one of the little stainless fittings, tangs, swages, or cables that all work to hold our mast upright could start to develop a tiny crack in it.  A sailor has only two ways of knowing about a little crack in a critical piece of metal.  One is by wiping off the grime and rust and taking a close look, and the other is by studying the wreckage after the mast has come crashing down.  Thoughts like that help me keep my attention to details like this.

     By 3:30 in the afternoon, I had worked my way back down to the deck and was masking off all the multitude of winches, cleats and fittings at deck level and I was exhausted.  Going aloft doesn't look like much.  It looks like one is just sitting on the seat of a big swing.  But to get any work done 5 stories in the air, you're constantly twisting your legs or feet around something and flexing your core muscles to hold you steady.  You'd be surpised how much you need your abdominal muscles tightening up there!  (Or am I just afraid of heights?)  A little wave that moves the deck a fraction of an inch swings the top of the mast through a much wider every passing boat or puff of wind and you're swinging around unless you've clamped yourself in position..So it didn't take long for me to realize that I haven't been doing nearly enough sit ups!

     Anyway, back on solid ground by the end of the day, with the awful thought that now I had to go do the whole thing all over again tomorrow to get the paint on.  Taking a few days off is no longer an option as I need to get things painted, and let the paint cure well before any rainfall comes and washes it away.  And then to top it all off will come one final trip up and down to take off all the masking tape!

Steve paints the mast

     So yesterday I once again pulled on my orange jumpsuit that Kathleen has come to make me wear anytime I'm about to start a potentially messy project, and by 11 I was back up at the masthead laying on the paint.  Now painting that high up with even the tiniest breeze can easily send droplets of paint well beyond even the most generous of dropcloths.  Not to mention the horror that a dropped half-full paint can could cause.  So I poured the paint into a clean ketchup bottle and then tied the bottle to my bosun's chair.  All day long I'd squeeze a line of paint onto the tip of my brush, brush the paint onto the mast, repeat.  By sunset I was still 6 feet off the deck, so after a good night's rest, I finally finished the job this afternoon.  Just in time because the rain is supposed to reappear tomorrow night.

    The mast looks great, and the rigging looks like it will hold the mast up for at least another year.  So after all that I think I've earned my 6-pack...from the grocery store at least if not the kind on my stomach. 



August  31:

     Making good progress here... Went up the mast one final time to peel off all the masking tape, reinstall the spreader boots, and attach a new deck light.  I've slowly been converting the lights on Uliad to LED--which is tremendously more energy efficient than the older incandescent bulbs.  By nightfall I could finally try it out and was pleased to find that the new light covers the whole forward deck and beyond with plenty of bright...should be an improvement when we have to set an anchor at night. 

     The other big piece of progress was that I got my work visa this week.  So it's a good thing I'm getting the major boat projects all behind me as soon the White Cross clinic up the road will be vying for my attention... 


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