Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 January 4 :


     I finally finished a long stretch of work over the holiday weekend and have some time off.  It seems that every doctor in town takes a couple of weeks off over the holidays, leaving no place for folks to go but to our little urgent care clinic.  Then in addition, there are lots of people from Auckland who come up here for their holiday, and inevitably a few of them get sick or hurt themselves.  So it has been busy at work and I'm glad to be free of it all for a week!

     Freedom can be a bit addicting, I find.  Once you've had it, it can seem almost unbearable to be without it.  But I've got it under control....really.


 January 7: 

    So we planned to take the boat a few hours down the river and anchor in some clean water for once and thought we'd invite a few friends along.  We tend to forget after crossing the Pacific that for the average person, a two hour boat ride down the river can be quite an exciting adventure.  So everyone took us up on our invitation and we had 6 guests aboard for the trip.  Kathleen offered to drive a car down to the anchorage near the mouth of the river so it was just Emmett and I running the boat.

    After dropping anchor, I dinghied to shore to pick up Kathleen and we fed everyone dinner on Uliad.  (Pesto tortellini, green salad, roasted cauliflower and brownies for dessert!)  Finally by about midnight, we got the guests back to shore minus Emmett's two friends Becca and Harry who stayed for a sleep-over.  It was great fun to introduce a few more people to the boating life...and to remember it ourselves!


January 8:

    This has been the usual routine for the past month:  Steve gets a few days off work, then a storm hits.   Steve goes back to work--the weather clears.  So it shouldn't have come to any surprise that yesterday gale warnings went up throughout the North Island.  We were well tucked into a snug harbor and played games with the kids all day as Uliad was buffeted with rain and 35 knot wind gusts.   The kids thought it all great fun, at least until late afternoon when Becca was either feeling seasick, or just homesick  but in any event we ferried her back to shore, leaving Emmett and Harry to stay up way too late for a second stormy night onboard.

     Sometime before midnight, the winds finally eased and we had a quiet night until the boys woke up around 8am.  We fed them pancakes and by afternoon, the skies had cleared up enough to organize a long hike on shore, followed by tea and cookies back onboard Uliad with Harry and the rest of his family.  We got them all ferried back to shore by early evening and even though the wind seems to be picking up again, a blessed sense of contented peacefulness pervades onboard.  Any parent who has ever hosted a slumber party will know this feeling. 


January 10:

     I have enough days in a row off from work to outlast the bad weather this time.  The last two days have had some calmer winds and little rain.  The sun even pops out from behind the clouds once and a while!  I know that may not be much to brag about, but if you knew New Zealand's weather...

     So we hung tight in our little bay, keeping the primo anchor spot here where we can watch the cows on the grassy hillside in one direction, and the ships coming and going from the refinery in the other direction.  Somehow, the wind never blows in this direction from the refinery, so without the smell, it is rather charming to look at from a distance in the evening--all lit up like Christmas with a little orange flame dancing from the highest smokestack.  Now that the weather is better, lots of other yachts have come in here and I like to think that they're all a bit jealous that we were here first. 

     This "shakedown" has been a little more successful than our last one in that nothing has broken onboard.  I was a bit on edge, waiting for the shoe to drop, until finally yesterday the impeller on the generator gave out and had to be replaced--a 15 minute job that I've done plenty of times before.  So now I'm finally relaxing.  We've been catching up on school, taking some hikes on shore, and Emmett and I even went for a snorkel today.  The water is still chilly here, but with our wetsuits it is manageable.  And certainly better than a few weeks ago when I dove here to clean the barnacles off Uliad's hull.  Emmett's new wetsuit that he got for Christmas seems to fit just as planned:  a bit too big, but close other words, trying our best to see that he doesn't grow out of it too fast!! 

     We jumped in the water after hearing that there were scallop beds somewhere out here.  So on our way to shore, I dove down about 20 feet or so, and sure enough, there was a scallop lying on the sandy/muddy bottom.  I brought it up to show Emmett what we were looking for, thinking to myself, "Well this is going to be easy."

     The one I found was too small to keep, but it ended up being the only live scallop we saw during our entire half-hour foray.  So I guess there's more to scallop hunting than that.  We were ready to keep pursuing the wily bivalves, but Kathleen returned from her walk and appeared on shore.  Gentlemen that we are, we broke off the hunt to swim back to the boat and take the dinghy to shore for Kathleen.  But I haven't given up on them. 


January 13:

     Up early to catch the incoming tide for a two hour motor back up the river to our marina.  Emmett and his friends got in one last swim yesterday.  We had friends out to the boat and lounged around most of the day onboard.  Our friend Robin commented how she couldn't imagine that we've been away from a grocery store for a whole week and didn't need something.   Despite our reassurance that we're pretty adept at provisioning the boat so we can be pretty self sufficient for many weeks at a time, she still  couldn't help herself and brought out fresh bread, croissants, and sandwich fixings.  I quickly lost my hubris and grabbed a croissant.

A few other cruising boats with kids appeared also, so I'm sure Emmett was disappointed to leave today.   Sadly, it's back to work for me tomorrow, so there was no option to stay out at anchor, even with the bread re-supply from Robin.

Harry and EmmettUliad heading back up the Hatea River



January 18:

     I swear that Emmett is slowly turning Polynesian  His hair is long, his skin is dark, he plays a ukulele...and now he's taken up surfing.  This week he's been attending "surf camp" every morning with his friends.  He leaves at 8 am, slathered in sunscreen and returns by 3, red, exhausted, and smiling despite a few bruises.  How long can it be before he's eating taro and breadfruit and asking for his first tattoo?

Emmett at surf campEmmett rides the New Zealand pipeline

     How much of all this will he take with him, I wonder?   Is this just his developmental phase to assimilate what's around him, or will our travels have some lasting impact on what he loves and aspires to in life?  But then, who can know?  I grew up surrounded by cornfields in the Midwest and I'm sure my parents never imagined that I'd grow up and sail to New Zealand. 

     For my part, I've been enthralled by the possibility of running out of projects onboard Uliad.  I put a fresh couple of coats of varnish on the cockpit table the other day--this is pretty much an annual chore due to the UV light that gets at it.  The varnish work down below will last for many years, but expose it to tropical sunlight and pretty soon it just starts peeling right off.  Our table folds up when not in use, so I use Cetol on the outside surfaces that get the most sun as it seems to be the most weather resistant, but it just doesn't look as pretty as real varnish, so on the inside surfaces I use Tropikote marine varnish.   Man do I love that glassy smooth, rich colored finish that reappears at the end!

Steve varnishes the cockpit table



January 23:


      So today my Dad and his partner Faye arrived from the USA for a visit.  I was reminded what a small country New Zealand is at the airport.  We drove in, parked and walked maybe 50 yards across the street to fetch them where they exited from the customs area.  We were back in the car and out of the short-term parking lot before our free 10 minute grace period had expired!

     Emmett is thrilled to have his grandpa around for a while, and we're all excited to do some long-delayed travelling around the North Island together.  But first we're going to give our guests a couple of days to get acclimated to the new time zone, the summer weather, and the water that swirls in the opposite direction in the toilets here.



January 27:


     Day 1 of our week long road trip.  We took the scenic route out of Whangarei and stopped at a few wineries north of Auckland to do some tasting... The consensus was that there was nothing worth buying more of so we drove on, to end in Hamilton.  This city is home to Hamilton Gardens: a huge horticultural center that is open to the public.  They have a huge assortment of different garden styles to wander through.  And wander we did, through Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Italian, English, and Contemporary American styled areas.  There was a Maori Garden highlighting the plants of importance to New Zealand's first people.  Then we examined vegetable, herb, medicinal, and perfume gardens.  There was an interesting demonstration of backyard sustainable gardening, and by the end, even I was ready to go buy a farm and start shoveling dirt all day.  And we never even got around to seeing the collections of roses, begonias, and who knows what else.

The "Chinese Scholar's Garden" at HamiltonKathleen admires the Tuscan GardenHamilton Gardens

     Kathleen is the gardener in the family and had been patiently waiting for months to see Hamilton Gardens.  To be honest, I had planned to follow along and smile for her sake, but I ended up having a great time taking it all in.  Even Emmett was enthralled by this living botanical museum and by the end of the day we were all wracking our brains trying to decide which garden we'd most like to bring home and have for our own back yard. 


January 28:


     We got an early start today.  Well, that is an early start getting to a charming little coffee shop downtown.  But then we lingered a bit over the espresso drinks and baked goods and didn't actually get on the road to Hawkes Bay until late morning.  After a long drive through those notoriously narrow and winding New Zealand roads, we arrived at Napier with plenty of time to stop at two wineries on the edge of town to see what they were pouring.  Walked out with a couple of bottles from the Esk Valley Winery, checked into our hotel room, and then celebrated our arrival at a nice Thai restaurant.

      After filling ourselves with Pad Thai, we retreated back to the room and succumbed to the addicting glow of the television.  Poor Emmett has been deprived of the Discovery Channel for the past few months, so he wasted no time in catching up. 


January 29:

     Emmett is beside himself with glee.  Not only does he have a TV in our hotel room, but the skate park in Napier is holding the New Zealand Scooter Championships the same weekend that we happened to visit.  So at first he was excited to watch, but with a little coaxing, he eventually decided to enter.  Napier has an awesome skate park right on the city waterfront with ramps and jumps and even a giant pit filled with foam blocks that a kid can go flying into while trying to learn some insanely dangerous stunt.

Emmett attepmts no hands, no feet jump on his scooterEmmett about to land in the foam pit (Thank God!)

    One look at the competition and I could see that they've been putting the foam pit to good practice.  For every kid at Emmett's level who was happy to land a simple no-footer jump, there were even more doing back flips, helicopter spins, and all sorts of other ghastly maneuvers that I don't even know the name of. 

    So while Emmett was warming up for the big contest, we sent Dad and Faye to the New Zealand Wine Center's wine tasting school that we had been to a few months ago.  Hopefully they'll be ready to wax poetically about the fascinating aromas of the wines we plan to taste later today.


January 31:

   Spent the last few days wandering around the wineries in Hawke's Bay, tasting as we went of course.  Then on our way back we stopped for a few days at a place called Rotorua.  The town of Rotorua is built inside the crater of an enormous extinct volcano crater, which is now mostly filled with water to create a big lake surrounded by mountains.  And when I say extinct, I just mean no bubbling lava at the moment.  The whole area is riddled with sulfurous steam vents which makes the whole town smell like a big fart if the wind is blowing right.  But there are all sorts of more pleasant volcanic phenomena as well:  there are mineral hot springs making beautiful rock formations, geysers, bubbling mud pools, and even a river that springs from the ground, literally boiling as it does so.

   We wound our way down a few back roads to find the boiling pools of mud.  The lush green ferns and trees suddenly choked back by spattered ash and mud.  A huge pond of grey mud dotted with spots where bubbles sputter through with that sulfur smell.  Emmett quickly renamed the place, "Lake Diarrhea".  T

Kathleen at the Rotorua mud pools...aka Lake DiarrheaNew Zealand Redwood treesEm prepares to luge, Rotorua in backgroundKathleen races down the luge track

   The locals have done a great job of capitalizing on the positive and ignoring the smell of this unique area.  Emmett got his thrills on a nearby mountain where a gondola to the top was built, along with a long racetrack down where you can steer your own luge cart as fast as you dare around the hairpin turns.  They also received a gift of some redwood trees from California about a century ago and by now, there is a large park with some pretty impressive sized trees.  Apparently they grow so quickly here (1" thick tree rings!) that the wood is very soft and not much good for anything but tourist photos.

   Next stop, that curious Kiwi phenomenon of jet-boating.  No New Zealand visit is complete without one, it would seem  The object of this pastime is to race at horrible speeds up narrow river canyons, passing within inches of rocks, tree stumps, or cliff walls.  Then add in the occasional "spin out".  Our jet-boat adventure went up to the base of a massive, raging waterfall called "Huka Falls" which, mercifully, the jet boat captain did not try to climb. 

    The boiling river

   We ended our time here at that boiling river that I mentioned.  The townspeople built a clever system of cooling pipes and divert the water into a series of pools of varying temperatures that are drained every evening and refilled every morning with hot-river water.  We soaked away the stress of our volcanic valley hike and jet boat ride here until sunset.  Maybe we were just becoming immune to the smell, but by now Rotorua seemed pretty nice.



                                                                                                                             created by Steve Erickson 2007-2012
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